Domino (2005) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's notes


Domino is a biopic about bounty hunter Domino Harvey. The daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, she gave up being a Ford model and became a bounty hunter, and not just a quiet, businesslike one, but part of a very radical team of bounty hunters. Domino is played by Keira Knightley, who did an excellent job in the role. Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez play her partners.

The story is told in flashbacks from a point where she is being questioned by an FBI agent about a large amount of mob money involved in a caper that has gone very bad. The film is all about action, or at least it is supposed to be, but it is dominated by the visual style employed by director Tony Scott. I feel that there is a good film in Domino's life, but that Scott overwhelmed the story with his visual style, often making the film hard to follow. Other reviews and comments also found fault with Scott's overbearing presentation.

  • "It's like someone smashed open a piņata full of film-school devices and Tony Scott grabbed them all. Oliver Stone, on his best day, couldn't make a movie this incoherent."
  • "With Domino, Tony Scott continues in his quest to make films expressly for the hard of hearing, the visually impaired and people on amphetamines, who find that all other movies move too darn slow."
  • "A damaging cinematic concussion that's visually and mentally exhausting - borderline punishing - for no reason. It advertises ambition and peddles confusion and incoherence."
  • "Domino is less a movie than a hyperkinetic slide show -- presented during a nuclear attack."
  • "The movie plays like the work of a self-impressed film student. It's ripe with strident stylistic flourishes, harsh atmospheric cinematography and superficial roles that allow cast members to scream their heads off. Either that, or get them blown off."
  • "A raucous mess, constructed and edited with such crazed intricacy and shot with such extravagant flamboyance that it's actually physically painful to look at after awhile."

To be fair, some of the tricks he employed here will probably be used effectively by others, but it is a safe bet that nobody will do an entire film in this fashion.



  • Commentary by director Tony Scott and writer Richard Kelly
  • Script notes and story development commentary with Tony Scott, Zack Schiff-Abrams, Ricahrd Kelly and Tom Waits
  • Nine deleted scenes
  • "I am a Bounty Hunter": Featurette on Domino Harvey's Life with optional commentary
  • Bounty Hunting on Acid: Evolution of a Visual Style
  • widescreen anamorphic (16x9)


Keira Knightley shows breasts in a hyperkenetic mescaline-induced sex scene late in the film. There are also some anonymous strippers showing breasts and buns.

Scoop's notes

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 7.4
18-29 5.9
30-44 5.3
45 or more 3.8

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 fictional.

Let's look at those points one at a time.

Domino's life versus Domino's stories

The conventional wisdom about Domino Harvey (right) is 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 Scott is!

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.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two and a half   stars. James Berardinelli 2/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

  • British consensus out of four stars: one star. Mail 0/10, Telegraph 0/10, Independent 2/10, Guardian 2/10, Times 2/10, Sun 4/10, Express 4/10, Mirror 4/10, FT 2/10, BBC 2/5.

The People Vote ...

  • Yahoo Movies. Yahoo's youthful voters liked it much better,  assigning an average grade of B-

  • 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 is.

Our own guideline:

  • 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.
  • C 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-.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F 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.

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