Certainly, many films these days have a sleek style, a polished glossy surface. However, few approach the kind of style that Tony Scott gives his films. While the director has been famous (infamous?) for such moments as the camera spiraling around a rooftop conversation between Brad Pitt and Robert Redford in "Spy Game", he took things a step further with "Man on Fire", a film that was saturated with stylistic touches; each frame was soaked with altered colors, editing tricks and camera techniques (hand-cranked cameras), as well as occasional and unusual use of subtitles. Either it completely worked to get you into the feel of the film's world or it completely didn't.
"Domino", Scott's tale of real-life bounty hunter Domino Harvey, is more of the same - much more. Trippy, surreal and flashy enough for four or five films, Scott turns what could have been a straightforward biopic into something resembling the druggy, bad dream haze of a "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". The film stars Kiera Knightley as Domino Harvey and, while it seems like an odd casting choice, Knightley seems to pull off being a bounty hunter reasonably well.
The picture opens with Domino telling her tale to a federal agent (Lucy Liu). The rest proceeds in flashback, starting with Domino's childhood. Her father (who, in reality, was actor Laurence Harvey) passed away early in her life and her mother was more interested in finding a new rich husband. A modeling career doesn't go well, and she gets booted from college for beating up a girl who made fun of her.
Harvey stumbles onto a new career: bounty hunter. Signing up for a class with legendary hunter Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo), a little networking gets her a spot on a team that includes Ed (Mickey Roarke) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez). Although they're like oil and water at first, the three eventually become something of a family.
Scott, working from a script by screenwriter Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko"), spins Domino's story all over the map, mixing in drama and finding small bits of comedy in the absurdity of the whole thing. There's her taking part in a reality show about her profession, hosted by two "Beverly Hills 90210" stars (Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green) and - enjoyably enough - Christopher Walken plays the producer. There's a segment on the Jerry Springer Show, featuring the girlfriend of Claremont, who works at the DMV and serves as a contact for the bounty hunters. It all leads up to a heist of $10m, the mob and a finale in Vegas.
"Domino" is unpredictable, visually aggressive (that's an understatement) and the story is fragmented, jumping all around in time. We don't know whether what we're being told is the truth or not, nor does the story, which sometimes corrects itself later. Again, the director's style is even more over-the-top than any of his prior films, but the style doesn't exactly seem out of place in a movie that takes a swim in the deep end of its own absurdity, including a scene with Walken as a WB (CW now, I guess) producer, sitting in a camera truck watching Harvey beat up a target and yelling at the screen, "We should sign her!"
The performances are generally quite good, including Knightley. While the lead-in to the character becoming a bounty hunter is a bit thinner than it should be, she's more convincing in the role than one would probably think. Rourke and Ramirez are good in their roles, although the characters could have gotten a little more focus. The supporting players, such as Walken and Lindo, also fare well.
This is certainly not a film without some faults (not enough about Domino's early years and the fact that it runs a bit long at 128 minutes, among other things), but it's a unique, wild, love-it-or-hate-it flick that - problems aside - kept me involved.
VIDEO: "Domino" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by New Line. The picture quality captures the film's intended look quite well. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as the picture appeared crisp and well-defined, with small details clearly visible during many scenes.
Flaws are few-and-far-between, and include a couple of minor artifacts and some slight edge enhancement at times. However, these flaws are hardly noticable, and no print flaws or other concerns were seen. Colors are very much altered throughout the film, but appear to have been presented accurately here.
SOUND: "Domino" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES. The film's sound design is about as aggressive (and without being too gimmicky, which it could have been) as the film's visual style, throwing a lot of effects and ambience to the surrounds, as well as reinforcement for the score by Harry Gregson-Williams. Audio quality was terrific, with punchy, crisp effects, clear dialogue and bassy music. As for bass, the film certainly did present strong low bass at times.
EXTRAS: There are two commentaries - the first is by screenwriter Richard Kelly and director Tony Scott. Both participants have been recorded separately and their comments have been edited together. The track is excellent, as it provides an in-depth discussion of the real Harvey (Harvey, who passed away recently, had known Scott for years, and he had been developing the film for ages), the development of the script, working with the actors, trying to get a film like this made (while watching it, I was surprised it was) and production issues. It's a great track, and well worth a listen for fans.
The second track is unusual, but interesting. The track combines director Tony Scott, writer Richard Kelly, actor Tom Waits and exec producer Zach Schiff-Abrams, who all (Waits is only heard briefly) go over the screenplay and try to iron out different issues. The audio quality of the track is just okay, but this is definitely a fun track to listen to, as we get to hear the group trying to bounce ideas back-and-forth.
Two featurettes, "I Am a Bounty Hunter" (looking into the real Domino Harvey's life) and "Bounty Hunting on Acid: Tony Scott's Visual Style" (looking into the processing techniques used in the film to get the kind of image seen) offer a further look into the style and story of the film. Especially interesting is an alternate audio track included with the "I Am the Bounty Hunter" featurette, which offers an interview between Richard Kelly and Domino Harvey.
Finally, we get 7 deleted scenes with optional commentary and both the teaser/theatrical trailers for the film. Sneak peek trailers for other titles from the studio are also included.
Final Thoughts: "Domino" is a hyper, intense, surreal effort from director Tony Scott that, while a love-it-or-hate-it kind of film, I found mostly enjoyable. Kiera Knightley, despite seeming like a questionable casting choice, makes it work as a bounty hunter. New Line's DVD edition provides excellent audio/video, as well as a fine selection of strong supplements. Rent it.
The Film B-