Keira Knightly slums her talents as pretty girl bounty hunter Domino Harvey in director Tony Scott’s (Man On Fire) cartoonish fictionalization of Harvey’s unconventional lifestyle. Screenwriter Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) creates a sloppy batch of scenes that fit together like pages from different books to effect an unsatisfying audience experience. Mickey Rourke gives a phoned-in performance as the leader of Domino’s badass trio of door kickers alongside wilting cameo performances from Delroy Lindo and Jacqueline Bisset.
As Domino veers wildly between action-thriller and neo-noir pulp genres, Tony Scott’s use of grainy film stocks (like Traffic and City Of God) calls attention as a gimmicky device intended to make the movie racier than the script provides. Domino is a steaming pile of green-tinted celluloid.
Daughter of actor Laurence Harvey (The Manchurian Candidate), who passed away when Domino was four, Harvey grew up a privileged girl attending a list of English boarding schools while her supermodel mother Paulene Stone moved to America upon marrying Hard Rock Cafe founder Peter Morton. Although Domino claimed to have modeled for the Ford agency in Europe, the office disavows any knowledge of her presence. After moving to the U.S. Domino brought her English accent to bear as a San Diego firefighter where she won the nickname “Dagger Bailey’s” for her proclivity for the liquor and her 10” hunting knife.
But Domino Harvey’s checkered past is degraded in the film to an embarrassingly stylized montage sequence that features her fighting a fellow runway model on a catwalk and breaking the nose of a sorority sister who insults her for being flat-chested; even if the real-life Domino was busty. The pay-off transition climax scene has Domino sitting on a disused couch atop a Los Angeles low-rise building where crumbled newspapers blow around to reveal an ad for a bail-bond seminar put on by Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo).
When the seminar turns out to be a scam, Domino chases down the escaping promoters (Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez) and demands to join their outlaw gang of bail-bondsmen. Domino’s trajectory wraps around a recurring subplot wherein she’s interviewed by a FBI criminal psychologist (played by a miscast Lucy Liu) about a cash heist involving a man with a recently severed arm.
During one of these recurring interview exchanges, Domino expresses her lesbian sexuality by suggesting that Liu’s character is primarily concerned with her nether region. The “p” word pops out of Keira Knightly’s mouth like an eruption of hot lava since little before or after it represents Domino as anything other than a confrontational young woman with a father complex she resolves in her apprenticeship to Mickey Rourke’s character Ed Moseby.
The overwritten but weakly characterized story comes apart as subplots coalesce around Domino’s bomb-obsessed Afghani cohort Alf (Rizwan Abbasi), a DMV counterfeit ID maker (Lateesha Rodriguez), a Warner Brothers produced reality television show and the Las Vegas mob. The movie lurches toward a predictably explosive climax atop the Las Vegas Stratosphere where we’re allowed to calculate Domino Harvey’s willingness to walk blindly into volatile situations from which her chances for a safe exit are minimal at best.
Through Tony Scott’s fictionalized cinematic prism Domino Harvey becomes a naive pretty girl with a bluffing swagger that never conceals a deep-seeded death wish. The real Domino Harvey (aged 35) died on June 27, 2005 in her West Hollywood apartment while under house arrest awaiting trial on drug charges. Her death puts a sad and bitter footnote on a movie that exploits her story in a distasteful and unentertaining way. MTW