I'm not going to rehash the points made by
Tuna and the many other critics who lambasted the film for its
stylistic excesses. I didn't much care for the film, which is
completely devoid of any human feelings. I will note, however, that
style and pacing are largely
matters of cultural and generational preference. Critics are mostly
male English-speaking graybeards, as are Tuna and I. Younger audiences
were much more likely to think that Domino's visual excesses were hip.
The IMDb ratings show a powerful inverse correlation to age:
|less than 18
|45 or more
Enough of that. I want to talk about other matters besides Tony
Scott's pyrotechnical flourishes. Let's get into the content of the
movie. It seems to me that there are two factors which were largely
ignored by the critics, and they dramatically expand the big picture, at
least in our tendency to view this as a Domino Harvey biopic:
- First, there is virtually no correlation between Domino Harvey's
real life and the version of that life related by Domino. The film is
based on the latter.
- Second, the film took Domino's tall tales and
fictionalized them, presumably without knowing they were already
Let's look at those points one at a time.
Domino's life versus
The conventional wisdom about Domino Harvey
that she gave up her privileged life as a "supermodel," but
- The term supermodel is an ambiguous one,
but by any reasonable definition she does not seem to qualify. She
doesn't appear to have done any photographic modeling, since there
are no known representative pictures of her.
"Patricia Lagrange, head booker at Ford
Models Europe, says she doesn't remember her at all. Patty
Sicular, who has worked for the company since 1980, doesn't
recall her either."
- The L.A. Times reported: "A mythology grew up that like her
mother, Domino was a model and that, unlike her mother, she had
turned her back on the glamour of the runway for a fringe
existence. But according to several family members and friends,
Harvey never worked as a model."
Domino also claimed to have been a student at
Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio, but
And then there was her claim to have renounced
her rich, glam life to become a bounty hunter. She did the bounty
hunting all right. She seems to have been intoxicated by the thrill,
the power, and the danger of it. Harvey worked for the Celes
King Bail Bonds agency in south central Los Angeles, spending her days
bringing in drug dealers, robbers and the occasional murderer, but
- She didn't choose downscale bounty hunting over upscale
modeling. Quite the opposite. She had previously been living in the
low-rent district, working as a ranch hand near San Diego and as a
volunteer firefighter in tiny Boulevard, California near the Mexican
border. The move back to L.A. was a way to move back upscale
to her mother's mansion. She applied and was turned down for a
job at the L.A. Fire Department, and she then chanced upon bounty
hunting. While working for Celes, she was "living,
at least for a time, in opulence with her mother." (As shown in
the film.) In fact, being rich helped her to be a good bounty
hunter. Her partner, Ed Martinez, said, ""She had money. She could
afford good guns."
Domino claimed to have been involved in
apprehending some important felons in big cases.
- As the News-Telegraph pointed out in her
obit, "In fact, though, her quarry consisted mainly of
small-time drug dealers and hopeless drug addicts, a category into
which she herself was steadily descending. When she checked into a
Hawaiian rehabilitation clinic in 1997, after selling the rights to
her life story, she weighed less than seven stone." (That's 98 lbs.
She was 5'9")
Domino said she was a bounty hunter because, "The
real satisfaction is putting the sleazebags in jail."
- In real life, she was in it for the visceral thrills, and she
WAS one of the sleazebags. In May 2005 she was arrested and charged
with conspiracy to distribute drugs, possession, trafficking and
racketeering. Put under house arrest pending trial, she was ordered
to wear an electronic tag and subjected to a regime of drug and
alcohol testing. She had been in and out of heroin
rehab for nearly a decade. She would have faced up to ten years in
jail if she had been convicted, and had yet to enter a plea
when she was found dead, OD'ed in a bathtub, Jim
Morrison style. The Los Angeles County coroner reported that she had
died June 27, 2005 from 'acute fentanyl toxicity.' Fentanyl is a
painkiller 80 times more potent than morphine.
Domino's Stories versus the Film
As if Domino's stories weren't already wild
enough, the film script added layers of embellishment. First Domino
gets out of an armed stand-off by giving a lap dance. Then, after the
first thirty of forty minutes, the film turns into Natural Born
Killers 2, a satire on the media's obsession with all things tawdry.
Domino becomes a reality TV star. Other friends of the bail bondsman
become Jerry Springer guests, making up words like Chinegro, Japanic,
and Blacktino to define the new racial mixtures of America. The story
takes additional side-trips into the Russian occupation of
Afghanistan, mysticism, sex addiction, and more. Many have noted that
Tony Scott's direction was surreal, but few mentioned that its
surrealism was matched by the script. The cast includes characters
like "underwater mobster "and "Bishop goon."
It's all fictional characters in fictional
situations, many of them completely unrelated to the main plot, all
held together only by the glue of a first name which belonged to a
real person: "Domino."
All of this, which I presume to be satire,
forms what is, in essence, a self-defeating argument. The strongest
case against the film's point is the very obscurity of Domino's life,
despite her ongoing attempts at self-aggrandizement and
legend-building! If the media really were so obsessed with such sleazy
matters as a rich white chick working as a bounty hunter, then why did
they, in reality as opposed to in the movie, have virtually no
interest in Domino Harvey at all? Perhaps because the general
consensus among those who knew Domino is that she rarely told the
truth about anything. As you read more and more about her, the
recurring theme is summed up by sentences like this: "She told me she
was completely straight, and when I got there she was stoned out of
her tree." In the last analysis, Tony Scott was the only one really
gullible enough to believe her and to think her life was as dramatic
as she claimed it to be, or dramatic enough to merit a film treatment.
As the Telegraph wrote in the article linked above, "The real
story of Domino Harvey's mixed-up life and tragic death would have
been too prosaic, and pathetic, to interest any Hollywood studio."
Yet Scott reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the
rights to her version of the story. All of this proves not that the
American media are obsessed with violence and celebrity, but that Tony
Bottom line: to be honest, the film has almost
nothing to do with Domino Harvey's version of her life which, in turn,
has almost nothing to do with reality. The only relationship between
this film and her real life is the pitch: "Movie star's daughter
turns bounty hunter."
End of story.
Does that have any bearing on whether it is a
good movie? No, none at all. Everything I have written may be true of a
brilliant movie as well as of a bad one. But it may have some bearing on your
perceptions of it.
Critics Vote ...
British consensus out of
four stars: one star. Mail 0/10, Telegraph 0/10, Independent 2/10, Guardian
Times 2/10, Sun 4/10, Express 4/10, Mirror 4/10,
FT 2/10, BBC 2/5.
Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $50
million for production, and grossed only $10m in the States.
(And another $10m elsewhere.)
|The meaning of the IMDb
score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of
excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars
from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm
watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars
from the critics. The fives are generally not
worthwhile unless they are really your kind of
material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics,
or a C- from our system.
Films rated below five are generally awful even if you
like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one
and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less,
depending on just how far below five the rating
A means the movie is so good it
will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
B means the movie is not
good enough to win you over if you hate the
genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an
open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better
is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at
least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial
success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with
good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the
critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also
assign a B- or better to a film which did not do well at the
box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of
the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people
had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but
will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of
movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are
indistinguishable to you.
means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who
like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others
probably will not.
C- indicates that it we found it to
be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film
rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of
film, but films with this rating should be approached with
caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent
or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C-
and an E are indistinguishable to you.
D means you'll hate it even if you
like the genre.
We don't score films below C- that
often, because we like movies and we think that most of them
have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that,
you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.
means that you'll hate it even if
you love the genre.
means that the film is not only unappealing
across-the-board, but technically inept as well.
Based on this description, this
film is a low C-. The visual style
is impressive, but distracting.