Boba Fett would have a shit-fit. Bounty hunting, according to director Tony Scott and writer Richard Kelly anyway, is no longer just about stealth, cunning and measured aggression. Now it's about stripping, too.
To explain: there's a scene in Domino so spectacularly daft it probably deserves a star on its lonesome. In it, Keira Knightley is on her first ever bust as the titular bounty hunter. The bust goes wrong, climaxing in a pump-action standoff in which she and her two colleagues, Ed and Choco, are surrounded by a roomful of hoodlums pointing guns at their heads. Fingers are poised on hair-triggers. Tension hangs thick in the air. One false move and they'll be torn apart in a hail of bullets...
And what, precisely, does our deadly heroine decide to do about this predicament? Go for her gun? A knife, maybe? Oh no. She decides to take her clothes off and give the bad guys a lapdance. You know, to calm the situation.
As Knightley inexplicably cavorts in her skimpies, it becomes apparent that this 'true story' is anything but. More affectionate tribute than strict biopic, from this point it's clear that Domino is making no attempt at factual accuracy whatsoever. Its aim is to entertain.
Fans of Scott's typical kitchen-sink aesthetic certainly won't be disappointed. Shouty, sassy and inventive, his follow-up to Man On Fire may tone down marginally on the whip-pan, crash-zooming excesses of Denzel's revenge rampage, but it's still packed with as much in the way of visual pyrotechnics as it is twisted black comedy, kinetic action and wilful, unashamed sexiness.
When she signed on to the project, some considered Knightley a casting stretch as the real-life model turned mean-machine and her awkwardly plummy trailer voiceover ("I. Am. A. Bounty. Hunter") didn't bode well. But, regardless of the amazingly brief transition period between the corsets of Pride & Prejudice and the flack jackets here, and in spite of the undeniable initial shock for the audience of seeing little Lizzy Bennet knee someone in the knackers, she generally settles into the carnage with the same athletic, saucy gusto that so dazzled in Pirates Of The Caribbean. Hipster trousers constantly at half-mast, builder's bum and G-string proudly protruding, she marches about with a cocky tomboy swagger that - apart from one or two ridiculously overplayed pieces of faux macho posturing - sees her hold her own in a sea of gangsters and grime.
In fact, not only does the porcelain-skinned, 20-year-old posh bird from Middlesex convincingly buddy up with the beefy Rourke and unhinged Ramirez, but she proves the ultimate wish-fulfilment fantasy for adolescent girls: Jean Claude Van Dame.
Disappointingly though, Richard Kelly's screenplay is an enthusiastic muddle. Like Donnie Darko, it's often hilarious and always sharp, with the uneasy love triangle between Domino and her two colleagues providing a neat central spine. But, unlike Kelly's cult calling-card, it starts sloppily and is packed with a dizzying confusion of subplots that ping around from unconvincing backstory to armed heists to reality TV and disease-of-the-week melodrama in a blink. Some tangents are terrific (Christopher Walken's hilarious, font-obsessed TV executive and ex-Beverly Hills 90210ers Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering playing themselves as his presenters), others unnecessary vehicles for a succession of jarring cameos (oh good, it's Jerry Springer). Considering its overall satirical sparkiness and snappy dialogue, it's a shame more of the excess fat wasn't liposuctioned. If it had, then maybe, just maybe, we would be talking alchemy of Scott and Tarantino proportions...
Even so, Domino packs so much action, fun and pathos into its running time that it's impossible not to like. Sensibly spotting that as a profession, bounty hunting can be a bit, well, dull - roundup bail jumpers, collect cash - Scott introduces a convoluted Mob scam that sucks in Domino and co and builds toward a tense, explosive climax that delivers in tragic style. Throughout, he lingers on his leading lady, lasciviously - of his six-camera set-up, there must have been one permanently dedicated to focus on Knightley's rump - and frames her in enough filmmaking fireworks and excitable vibrancy to perfectly showcase his undisputed technical edge.
So who was the real Domino Harvey? Still not the foggiest. But in the meantime, this one will do nicely.
Terrific fun and sexy as hell, but the story's too mushy and wayward to really resonate. Still, Knightley has a ball and Rourke is a joy once more.
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