The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, October 24, 2005

Domino (2005)

My daughter loved this film.  I found myself struggling to say something nice about it.  The story of Domino Harvey, the privileged daughter of actor Laurence Harvey ("The Manchurian Candidate") who became a bounty hunter in Los Angeles, is director Tony Scott's attempt to make some kind of truth out of what was obviously a drug-befuddled, adrenaline-junkie, utterly amoral twit of a doomed soul's story.  The fact that Scott claims to be surprised by her "accidental" overdose says that he had absolutely no understanding of this troubled young woman.  Are we supposed to overlook the utter lack of regard for human life displayed by these people living in a moral shadowland?  I could care about the faux-family she builds for herself (with Micky Roarke as her surrogate father and mentor in the bounty game) until they show that they are just as repugnantly violent as the people they are dragging in. There's no center of good, so what we're left with is ultimately our own complicity in their actions.  Just how amused are we by casual mutilations?  Well, in my case, considerably.  But I don't mistake the mutilators for heroes.  About he time her "love interest" Chaco shotgun's a man's arm off just because someone on a phone told him, wait, he told Domino to have it done, and Chaco does it without, wait, it was a MISUNDERSTOOD order, you see, it wasn't their fault...
No, wait.  The entire thing is so obviously a tissue of lies and confused, egocentric fever dreams as she is wound up in a "caper" involving a crooked bail-bondsman trying to raise money for a child's operation (that's right--everything is o.k. because it was all for "the children.") and Domino, who has never killed anyone, suddenly becomes Rambo at the proper moment. She effortlessly swings between lap-dancing and Nunchaku-wielding at the drop of a hat, because she "has no fear of death."
All right.  But what to make of her, and the path she walked?  On the hero's Journey, it would be clear that within the text of the film, everything ends with an incredibly pat and unearned "happy ending" that completely eluded her in real life.  I am tempted to wonder if director Scott wasn't being a bit more disingenuous, whether he sensed the rot at the core of her spirit, and pretended to be pulled in to tell a story shaded by his intuitive grasp of her inevitiable self-destruction.  Not sure.  But she failed any conceivable leap of faith or maturation point, and what we are left with is a juvenile lack of self-examination, ultimately as sad as anything I've seen in quite a long time.  It's a C-, and I struggle not to give "Domino" even less.  But ultimately, that would be whipping a dog that's already died.  Just sort of sad, really.

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