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‘Domino’ is a Tony Scott misfire

Gimmick-loaded film makes you wonder if Scott is making a parody
/ Source: The Associated Press

During a rare moment of quiet and calm in “Domino,” a hyperactive reality-TV producer played by Christopher Walken is described as having “the attention span of a ferret on crystal meth.”

Unfortunately, that’s also true of director Tony Scott’s movie.

In telling the story of Domino Harvey, who rejected her posh British upbringing and brief stint in modeling for life as a bounty hunter, Scott has created an audiovisual assault. Be sure to bring earplugs — and maybe a blindfold.

Scott trots out every imaginable music video gimmick — a mix of swish pans and snap zooms, of grainy slow-motion and sped-up footage, of various film stocks and filters. Other annoying tactics include throwing words up on the screen as people say them (which he also favored in the slightly less obnoxious “Man on Fire”) and having characters repeat themselves for no apparent reason.

“My name is Domino Harvey (My name is Domino Harvey),” Keira Knightley intones in defiant voiceover at the film’s start, the second time through tinny distortion. “I am a bounty hunter (I am a bounty hunter).”

Which brings us to the sound effects — mostly nonstop automatic gunfire, shattered glass and shrilly screamed obscenities, though it’s even loud when a character smokes a cigarette, as if all the Zippos were miked. And that’s long before the top of the Las Vegas Stratosphere explodes in a sky-high ball of flames and fluttering cash. (It’s in the commercials, people, we’re not giving away the ending.)

Scott makes Darren Aronofsky and Paul Thomas Anderson look like Merchant and Ivory. He makes you wonder, is he serious? Or is this supposed to be a parody of an overblown action flick?

The worst part is: He should have known better.

The director knew Domino well — he describes the daughter of Laurence Harvey, star of the original “Manchurian Candidate,” as a “surrogate daughter” of his own and says he consistently warned her to be careful, up until her June death from an accidental overdose at 35. He should have known that her story was intriguing enough without smothering it in technological trickery.

And in Knightley, he should have known that he had an actress who’s compelling enough to carry a big action movie with an eclectic ensemble cast. It’s not such a different role for the beautiful young star of “Bend it Like Beckham” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies — Knightley wielded a mean bow and arrow in “King Arthur.” She can hold her own with the shotgun-toting big boys with a combination of wit, vulnerability and sex appeal.

What you’ll remember most from “Domino,” though, is the dried blood — crusting beneath her nose and above her upper lip, a facial area to which Scott devotes several extreme close-ups as Domino chain-smokes while being interrogated by an FBI psychologist (Lucy Liu).

In this fictionalized snippet of her life, written by Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko”) and Steve Barancik, Domino and her fellow bounty hunters Ed (Mickey Rourke, perfect for the part) and Choco (Edgar Ramirez) go after the suspects who’ve stolen millions from the Stratosphere.

They’ve gotten the assignment from their employer, bail bondsman Claremont Williams III (Delroy Lindo), whose girlfriend, Lateesha (comedian Mo’Nique), works for the California Department of Motor Vehicles and makes fake IDs on the side, the recipients of which may be the same people as our suspects.

Even before this important case, Domino and her crew had already gained enough fame to merit the attention of TV producer Mark Heiss, who makes them the subject of a series called “The Bounty Squad,” hosted by Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering as themselves. (Probably the best scene in the whole movie comes when Domino punches Green in the nose, something viewers of “Beverly Hills, 90210” were probably tempted to do for years.)

This wildly unfocused story attempts to be about a great number of things besides Domino herself, including an indictment of reality TV (which has been done a million times) and an exploration of the seamy side of the entertainment industry (which has been done a million and one times). Then to jumble the proceedings further, “Domino” grinds to a halt to allow Mo’Nique to do a standup routine about race as a guest on “The Jerry Springer Show,” and Tom Waits shows up, possibly as a mescaline-induced hallucination, in the desert.

In making a movie about a woman who was fiercely aware that she needed a life of danger, Scott seems to have absolutely no idea what he wants.