I probaly never woulda known this if there wasn’t a movie, but it turns out Laurence Harvey, who is a guy in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (but not Frank Sinatra), had a daughter named Domino. But wait, there’s more. This daughter supposedly tried to follow in the footsteps of her super model mother, but then got bored and became a bounty hunter. Rich girl model becomes bounty hunter – sounds like a good story, and apparently director Tony Scott was friends with Domino and spent 12 years trying to bring “her story” to the screen. Tragically, she died of a drug overdose last summer having only seen parts of the unfinished movie. I just watched the whole god damn thing so believe me, I can relate.
Okay, that was low and unfair and in poor taste. In the spirit of the movie. They say the real Domino liked what she saw of the movie and was real excited. She was a DJ and recorded a song for the opening credits. And her death was ruled an accident, unlike my paying $9 in good faith for a movie I hoped would be entertaining. You gotta wonder if the best way to honor your dead friend is to put her name on a horrible movie that has nothing to do with her. Whatever happened to pouring one on the curb? I guess maybe they had a weird friendship.
[Confidential to Skander Halim: if I die tragically before your option runs out, FOR GOD’S SAKE don’t let Tony Scott direct. Or produce. Or watch. Life is too precious.]
The movie DOMINO is most like is NATURAL BORN KILLERS. I always figured Oliver Stone was trying to make some prophetic warning about the media’s exploitation of violence, not realizing that everybody already figured that one out before he did. But in retrospect it turns out maybe he was prophetic: he was trying to warn us of the incoming tide of the Michael Bay style, the Bruckheimerization of the cinematic language, and/or Tony Scott’s big screen mid-life crisis. Oliver Stone was whacking us over the head, cutting the soundtrack into 750 pieces, torturing us with electric guitars, jarring edits, uncomfortable closeups, senseless switches from super 8 to regular to vhs to black and white to cartoon network. As obnoxious and pretentious as it was at least we knew what he was going for, I think. Some kind of impression of an oversaturated media culture is my guess.
What Tony Scott does now in movies like DOMINO and MAN ON FIRE is torture us with that same beating-you-to-death-with-a-movie style, minus the purpose. He just does it because he mistakenly, foolishly, embarassingly assumes that it is cool. This time he does bother to come up with an excuse: she gets dosed with mescaline at one point. So therefore it’s supposed to make sense that at whatever point in the future when she is narrating the story of her telling Lucy Liu the story of her life, she tells it like she just blazed ten turkey sized crack rocks.
There is not a scene where they are on peyote and go out into the desert to get mystical advice from a Native American guru. There is a scene where they are on mescaline and go out into the desert to get mystical advice from Tom Waits.
I am not going to say one way or another, but I want you to guess whether or not this is one of those movies where every time they introduce a new character they freeze frame and write the character’s name on the screen. And if so do you think you will remember those names at the end or feel that you have learned much more about them other than their names? I think you will be able to guess correctly but who knows.
Any random 30 second sampling of this movie would contain every symptom of the Bruckheimer plague: Avid farts, whooshy camera move sound effects, flying subtitles, Michael Bay energy drink edits, disorienting extreme closeups, overexposed/digitally saturated photography on any shot, no matter what it is, from a big ass shootout to a closeup of a fish to an interview in a police station. There is no sense of rhythm or momentum or build because EVERY. GOD. DAMN. SCENE. MIGHT. ASWELLBEABIGEXPLOSION. BOOOM.
WHAT TONY SCOTT TONY SCOTT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND IS THAT CINEMA IS A LANGUAGE LANGUAGE LANGUAGE. TONY SCOTT. THERE IS A CHARACTER IN THIS MOVIE WHO’S ALWAYS SPEAKING SPANISH TO ENGLISH SPEAKERS, NOT CARING THAT THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK HE’S TALKING ABOUT. THAT’S TONY SC0TT RIGHT THERE. NO RESPECT FOR COMMUNICATING A STORY OR CHARACTERS. IF I JUST START THROWING IN WACKY COLORS AND FONTS FOR NO GOD DAMN REASON IT ISGOING TO START DISTRACTING FROMfrom THE MEANINGTHE MEANING THE MEANING I’M (allegedly) TRYING TO COMMUNICATE. HOW THE FUCK IS ANYBODY GONNA UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM TRYING TO SAY ABOUT THIS MOVIE IF I BURY THE WHOLE GOD DAMN THING IN A PILE OF RANDOMLY SELECTED, ANNOYING STYLISTIC FLORISHESQUESTION MARK
Or to put it another way, if a guy is telling you a joke, but at the same time he’s pissing on your leg, you’re probaly not gonna catch the punchline. In my opinion.
And this is not a well told joke, because Tony Scott is putting all his effort into pissing on your leg. I don’t expect this to be a true story. I like that they openly don’t care about the facts and got the DONNIE DARKO guy to write the script. But the whole thing is muddled. Somehow they manage to make it feel like it has no plot and at the same time has way too much plot. Because you’re never involved in any character or event, and yet you can’t keep up with who is trying to do what to who or why.
If you have any interest in a goofy movie about a bounty hunter, watch THE HUNTER starring Steve McQueen. I am not sure this one is even about a bounty hunter. If kids, martians or the Amish watched this movie, not knowing what a bounty hunter was, I am betting they would come out still not knowing what it was. Although she does say “My name is Domino Harvey, and I am a bounty hunter” many times throughout the movie, there is only evidence to support the first part. The actual bounty hunting in the movie is minimal. Even when she first meets her bounty hunter team (Delroy Lindo, Mickey Rourke, one other guy) they are not actual bounty hunters. They’re pulling a scam, taking money for a “bounty hunting seminar” and then taking off out the bathroom window. I think there is one scene after that where they go to collect a bounty, but instead of asskicking she gives the guy a lap dance. (Seriously.) “My name is Domino Harvey, and I am a stripper.” The main plot has something to do with an armored car robbery, the mafia, the FBI, etc. Not bounty hunting. There’s a shootout or two but for me there wasn’t a single frame of film that seemed like an action movie. Because it goes out of its way to make everything so visceral that nothing is visceral at all. You can’t have Christmas three times a day.
WHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSHHHHH. (lights cigarette.) sizzzzzzlllllllee. BOOM! SHHHOoooooPP! boom bip boom bip. (repeat until movie ends)
We get it, Tony Scott. You’re not old. You’re young. You’re hip. You probaly have an earring. You got your tips frosted! Maybe a soul patch. Only one problem asshole: your act is about as convincing as Vin Diesel in XxX. The truth is, you’re 61 years old. You remember when your fictional Domino character was saying she didn’t like Hollywood bullshit? Did you ever wonder who she might be talking about there? Let me point out a few facts. You directed Top Gun. You directed Beverly Hills Cop 2. You introduced Tom to Nicole. This is all documented. Your character hates Hollywood bullshit, and you directed Top Gun. I will let you draw your own conclusions.
And of course, this movie is Hollywood bullshit. For a guy trying to be so hip Tony Scott you sure are out of touch. For example, this story centers around a reality show. You really thought that was virgin territory for satire, huh? Jesus, Tony Scott, Ron Howard did a movie about reality TV six years ago. I saw it on cable. RON FUCKING HOWARD beat you to this. The guy with the baseball hats that likes astronauts. The guy who did SPLASH. There’s a rule of thumb for you: if Ron Howard beats you to a topic by more than half a decade, you are officially for sure a bonafide Square with a capital S. Motherfucker, you can’t deny that you watch Jay Leno. No, you tape Jay Leno every night because it’s too late to stay up. If you can figure out how to program your VCR.
I mean, one of the big “laugh” scenes in DOMINO is an episode of the Jerry Springer Show. Damn, how did they get Jerry Springer to play himself? He hardly ever does that, unless you count MEET WALLY SPARKS, KILLER SEX QUEENS FROM CYBERSPACE, KISSING A FOOL, THE 24 HOUR WOMAN, AUSTIN POWERS 2, SUGAR & SPICE, or PAULY SHORE IS DEAD. Other than those 7 movies and the one he starred in and a few others, it is very rare to see Jerry Springer parodying himself in a movie, so that was quite a coup there for DOMINO.
This is a movie that really leaves alot of questions for you to ponder. Like, is there really still a Jerry Springer Show?
Roger Ebert, who somehow performed the feat of enjoying this movie, talked on his show about a scene where an arm gets cut off because it has the combination to a safe tattooed on it. (Believe me, not as exciting as it sounds.) He thought this was funny because it would be easier to just write down the number. That means Ebert didn’t pick up on one of the few jokes in the movie that made me chuckle slightly. After we already know the arm is chopped off, we find out that the arm was chopped off due to poor cell phone reception (the boss told them to take his arm out of the jacket and look at it, but his phone kept cutting out and there was a wacky misunderstanding). I don’t blame Ebert for not catching this, it’s hard to make any sense out of this big screaming mess of holy hell. It’s like watching TRUE ROMANCE while jumping on a trampoline and people keep taking turns banging you on the head with pans.
I only compare it to TRUE ROMANCE because Tony Scott directed that one also and I guess that would have to be considered his best movie. I don’t think it’s a great movie but it’s a good one and they got a lot of similarities: single parented white kid fascinated by the dark side plays movie anti-hero, gets in over his or her head with mafia and FBI but soldiers on to bloody conclusion. TRUE ROMANCE was also written by a hipper, younger writer and remember it had some goofy pop culture touches like getting advice from an Elvis apparition in the bathroom and his friend auditioning for TJ Hooker. I saw it a few years ago, and saw DOMINO last night, but I remember TRUE ROMANCE better. I remember specific characters with personalities (Brad Pitt as the stoner roommate, the douchebag from PERFECT STRANGERS, the movie producer/coke dealer, Drexl the white pimp). I remember specific scenes with actual tension or suspense (the Dennis Hopper/Christopher Walken showdown, the shootout in the hotel). For DOMINO I don’t remember anything like that, but I remember that two guys from 90210 were in it.
I guess when you have goofy touches like the ghost of Elvis in a studio crime movie like that, it almost seems subversive. But when you do it in a movie that’s clearly trying to wave its ass in your face 24-7, it doesn’t mean shit. This movie is a sullen teenage girl with a giant blue mowhawk and a 666 tattoo on her forehead, wearing a shirt that says “SUCK MY DICK.” You know she’s just trying to get a rise out of you so the shirt has no meaning. If Condoleeza Rice wore it though you might raise an eyebrow. This movie spends its whole afternoon poking the mowhawk at you saying “Hey look mister, look at my mowhawk, I have a blue mowhawk, did you notice my mowhawk?”
There was a line I liked at the end of DOMINO, something like “If you’re wondering what parts are true, too bad. It’s none of your fucking business.” The problem is I assumed none of it was true since there’s not a note in the whole symphony that rings true. It has all the soul of a BMW commercial. In fact, there is an actual BMW commercial also directed by Tony Scott that has the exact same feel as this movie. If you ever saw THE HIRE, the series of short films/BMW commercials starring Clive Owen as an underworld driver, maybe you saw this. It was called BEAT THE DEVIL and it was a story about how James Brown (playing himself) made a deal with the devil, played by Gary Oldman. And Clive Owen has to take him to the devil’s apartment to try to renegotiate his contract. I know, it’s a crazy idea, it sounds good on paper and you would think there would be no director on earth who could make a concept like that dull. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Tony Scott. This asshole makes 8 minutes seem feature length. It goes beyond self indulgence. Tony Scott’s movies have figured out how to suck their own dicks. They invite you over to the apartment, tell you to make yourself at home, and you look over and suddenly they’re sucking their own dick right in front of you. I don’t know about you but I think that is rude.
The only enjoyment you get out of BEAT THE DEVIL at all is you keep telling yourself, “But James Brown. And Gary Oldman is the devil. Ha ha, and James Brown.” You keep telling yourself there is no way you don’t like it and yet, in reality, you don’t like it. Same thing here. How could Christopher Walken be in this movie as a crazy TV producer and add nothing? Ask Tony Scott. Want to see Lucy Liu do nothing? Here’s your movie. There are two guys from 90210 playing themselves (as hosts of the reality show). They’re there for almost the entire movie and they only get one good joke at the end. They are actually more successful than most of the rest of the cast though because they are better when they have nothing to do. Like, there’s a scene where the self-proclaimed bounty hunters are being hunted by the mafia, etc. and they are stranded out in the desert and even though he hasn’t added anything to the plot in about half an hour, Brian Austin Green is still in their entourage, sitting there all bandaged and bloody. Just there, for no reason. That was kind of a funny idea, I thought, in my brain. Here, hold on, let me write this down. Yep, sure enough, it looks good on paper.
Now because I am a gentleman I will say a couple nice things. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you even if they just tormented you for two hours and made you pay money for it. First of all, Mickey Rourke is good. He might have the closest to a full character, coming in at almost one half of an actual movie character. Kiera Knightley has gotten some shit in reviews but I don’t think she was that bad in this movie. She is not believable as a tough girl but she is not as bad as you might think. The real Domino didn’t look that tough either at least in the couple of pictures I’ve seen. Although she had more meat on her bones. Anyway, if the movie bothered to give her a personality or motiviations instead of just phoney poses – hell, if it just gave her some better poses – I think there is a possibility that Knightley would’ve pulled it off okay. I don’t know if there is a trophy for that or not but that’s all I got for her.
There is a good crazy idea here and there, thanks to DONNIE DARKO guy. He probaly was trying. I might forgive him for this one. I can’t say the same for fucking Tony god damn pain in the ass fuck you Scott, though. Last year he had Denzel Washington in a pure, simple, badass revenge story with the screenwriter of PAYBACK, and he fucked that up bad. Now he has the DONNIE DARKO guy doing a crazy story about a bounty hunter, he fucks that up even worse. There is definitely, for sure, no redeeming this motherfucker. These are movies that any competent director would’ve at least made watchable. Not Tony Scott. He has other plans. Looks good on paper + Tony Scott = run for the hills.
In fact, before I saw this movie I was not too pleased about Tony Scott remaking THE WARRIORS. And then I read somewhere that he wants his remake to be “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN meets THE WARRIORS” and that instead of say 30 guys in a big knife fight he’s gonna have armies of 3,000 running through the LA river basin. And I thought well actually, that sounds good, as long as he doesn’t try to make them realistic gangs, and it doesn’t sound like that’s the plan. I mean, imagine one of those big LORD OF THE RINGS battles but with Baseball Furies! That sounds good, I thought. On paper. Uh oh.
Tony Scott, you have long since used up your get out of jail free card. Your time is up. You’re 86ed. I’m sorry sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Your garbage is no longer welcome on our screens.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.