When he’s got a halfway decent screenplay to work with, Tony Scott can direct a pretty entertaining flick (Enemy of the State for instance) and if said script is downright brilliant, he’s able to deliver a near- masterpiece like True Romance. Put Scott at the helm of a movie with a problematic script, though, and he’ll make it seem even more superficial and dumb. This is what happened with the underwritten Top Gun and now with the overwritten “Domino”.
This latest piece of Scott bombast was actually penned by Richard Kelly of “Donnie Darko” fame, so there was some hope that this would be as successful a Hollywood recuperation of an indie maverick as Tony’s collaboration with the Quentin, but no luck. I don’t know if Kelly’s work was taken away from him and doctored to death or if he’s solely responsible for all its failings, but this is one spectacularly incoherent and pointless mess. It takes an intriguing “based on a true story (sort of)” premise and pushes it in the background, spending nearly all of the film’s bloated 127 minute length setting up a needlessly complicated criss-cross that inevitably ends in a big-ass blaze of bullets.
This was also the general outline of “True Romance”, all the way to the climactic Mexican standoff between the antiheroes, the FBI, the mob, some billionaire asshole and his henchmen, but whereas Tarantino’s gallery of characters all had interesting quirks and memorable lines, no one is given much of anything to work with in “Domino”. The likes of Mickey Rourke, Delroy Lindo and Christopher Walken still manage to be somewhat enjoyable, but others such as Lucy Liu, Mena Suvari and Tom Waits are simply wasted while Mo’Nique embarrasses herself and our whole race.
And then there’s Keira Knightley, the most inexplicable movie star of her generation. I don’t know many who could take the part of a supermodel turned bounty hunter and make it boring, but she found a way. Granted, the film doesn’t help her any, skipping over the how and whys a respected actor’s daughter gets to trade the silver spoon she had in her mouth when she was born for a shotgun, but she might still have made an impression if she wasn’t so sorely lacking in personality and womanliness. “What’s it like to have the body of a ten year old boy?” Well said, Mean Sorority Girl!
Meanwhile, Scott goes even more nuts with the visual tricks than in Man on Fire – I don’t think there’s a single shot in the film that isn’t either slowed down, sped up, tinted, tilted or tricked out in some way. But all the quick-pans and cross-fades in the world can’t hide the fact that not only do we not care about any of the characters, even the shoot-outs and explosions on their own are dull. There are some amusing touches (the robbers in First Ladies masks, the 90210 dudes playing themselves) but even then, they garner more bemused smirks than actual laughs. And, again, Knightley just isn’t that hot. Or cool. She’s… lukewarm. Like the movie.