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Wobbly ‘Domino’ lands face first

Tae Andrews | Friday, March 3, 2006

With a slick preview trailer, “Domino” looked to feature the coolest on-screen bounty hunter appearance since Boba Fett in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Well, maybe the coolest bounty hunter not to wear Mandalorian armor.

Although Fett’s taciturn performance is a tough act to follow, the presence of Keira Knightley sheer attractiveness at least promised to make up for any mercenary shortcomings. Trading in lipstick for bullet-shell casings, Knightley appeared poised to capture both her wanted quarry and the hearts of teenage males across the country – dead or alive. While she more or less succeeds as a femme fatale, the film as a whole suffers from an awful plot and overly complicated cinematography.

Through a series of poorly-done and very brief flashbacks, the film only offers a glimpse of Domino’s childhood. Following the death of her father, young Domino becomes an angst-ridden rebel without a cause. She also takes to randomly whipping around a pair of nunchaku. The pairing of girl-next-door appeal and sweet nunchuk skills combines to make her Napoleon Dynamite’s trophy wife.

As an angst-ridden teenager with an Avril Lavigne-like ethos, Domino naturally decides to pursue a career as a fashion model. Tragically, her willingness to engage in fisticuffs on and off the runway proves her inability to assimilate into the world of beautiful people, and she soon opts out.

Escaping from the superficial world of 90210 to a world of 187s and 911s, Domino decides to pursue a career of danger and excitement as a bounty hunter. After chopping off her hair in favor of a tomboy ‘do, she completes her transition from Posh Spice to Scary Spice by joining up with Ed (played by Mickey Rourke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez), a pair of veterans who she hopes will teach her the tricks of the trade.

However, the way the three of them are dressed up, it makes the audience wonder if Domino truly left the world of fashion or merely went on a photo shoot in the desert. Featuring designer jeans, aviator sunglasses and lots of squinty gazes, the trio looks more prepared to shoot a Levi’s commercial than draw a bead on any would-be criminals.

Herein lies the main problem of Domino – the film tries too hard to be cool. Instead of letting it come naturally, it tries to force it. Dressed like wannabe rock stars, Knightley and Co. look like members of the now-defunct band Creed, with performances nearly as strained as Scott Stapp’s vocals. Wielding shotguns in lieu of guitars, they are clearly trying to change the rock industry motif to “Sex, drugs, lock ‘n load,” but fail miserably.

Of course, all of the blame for this can be placed squarely on the shoulders of director Tony Scott. Once known as the genius behind “Top Gun,” Scott is in a tailspin free-fall nearly as bad as the one that killed Goose.

Using cinematography similar to his last film, “Man on Fire,” Scott again elects to use a perpetual motion approach in shooting Domino. This gets old quickly – he can’t keep the camera still, always zooming in and out, or flitting around. With this recently developed case of cinematographic ADD and a few artistic montages, Scott clearly has delusions of art-house grandeur.

In reality, shaking the camera only makes the audience want a dose of Dramamine. What all of this proves that “Domino” is a clichéd action film posing as an indie flick.

Some of the more “artistic” montages were designed to show the perspective of being tripped-out on mescalin. In fact, one of the DVD extras is a featurette entitled “Bounty Hunting on Acid: Tony Scott’s Visual Style.”

The sheer awfulness of this film is enough to make any viewer wonder what mind-altering narcotics Scott was doing when he cooked up this bomb. The only thing this film has going for it is Keira Knightley’s hotness factor. Even in all her hip-hugging jeans glory, she is barely enough to save “Domino” from the dreaded land of one-clover ratings.