‘Domino’ is the story of a model turned bounty hunter

Keira Knightley in ‘Domino’

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that cautions: “Be careful what you wish for, for your wish may well be granted.” Apparently it is a proverb that the late Domino Harvey never learned. She wanted to become a legend and now she has… posthumously. She died on June 27, 2005 and now, less than four months after her death, the story of her life comes to the big screen in the form of a film titled Domino, directed by Tony Scott and written by Richard Kelly.

Domino is brilliant, dreadful, insightful and awful; and it manages to be all of these things all at once thanks to a truly dreadful script from Kelly. Apparently he felt that the real life of Domino Harvey wasn’t nearly interesting enough to capture the interest of film fans and instead he made up wild flights of fancy that have nothing to do with the reality of her existence. At the same time, he ignores the tortured parts of her existence that made what she managed to accomplish so much more extraordinary.

Take Kelly’s script.  Add in the requisite Tony Scott visuals where cuts are done at the speed of a frog in a blender set on high and you have Domino. There is lots of action and thrills but it is a rough ride.  You may want to bring some aspirin or other painkiller into the auditorium along with your movie snacks, to make the journey bearable.

The film shows us that Domino was born to a famous actor father and model mother. Her father died when she was young and that her mother abandoned her to boarding school early in life in order to pursue another husband. She located that husband and not too long after marrying him, relocated to Beverly Hills from London. Once there, the young woman rebelled against her family’s desires, giving up a career as a model to pursue a new life as a bounty hunter. Actually the idea of being a bounty hunter comes to her after she reads about a seminar on how to become a bounty hunter that she can attend for $100. She shows up, pays her money and she wants her money’s worth.

What happens after this develops into the aforementioned flights of fancy, ignoring the reality of Domino’s life. There is a great scene involving the pursuit of a gangbanger that director Scott set up using real members of Los Angeles’s 18th Street Gang, a very funny scene involving the Jerry Springer show guest “LaTeesha Rodriquez” (Mo’Nique).   LaTeesha goes on Springer to espouse her views on biracial issues, and she coins phrases such as Blacktina and Chinegro that had the audience laughing out loud. There was even a chart that Ross Perot would have been proud of.

Mickey Rourke in ‘Domino’

Keira Knightley portrays Domino and she at least bears a passing resemblance to the late bounty hunter. Note that I did not say model turned bounty hunter, because I am convinced that she was not a model (more on that later). Mickey Rourke plays “Ed Mosby”, the bounty hunter who teaches Domino the trade of tracking and apprehending fugitives. His character is based on Domino’s real-life bounty-hunting partner Ed Martinez. The talented and seemingly always underutilized Delroy Lindo is “Claremont Williams”, the bail bondsman who employs Mosby and his character is also based on a real-life person, Celes King III. He worked on the movie as a technical consultant. Edgar Martinez is “Choco”, who was Mosby’s partner before Domino came along, and who speaks only Spanish to her, even though he knows she doesn’t understand it.

Tony Scott is the personification of the yin and yang of filmmaking. He can be brilliant as he was in Top Gun and True Romance and abysmal as he was in The Last Boy Scout and The Fan. He doesn’t know where the top is and manages to go over it in almost every movie he makes. And while he can shoot action sequences as good or better than any director in the biz, apparently he has gotten lazy. The final shootout scene is right out of the script of True Romance (Bad Guy vs. Bad Guy vs. Cops while girl drags shot guy away). Richard Kelly on the other hand hasn’t written anything of note except Donnie Darko and after seeing this, I wouldn’t mind if it remained that way. The real life story of Domino Harvey would have made a much better film.

What was Domino’s real story? Her father was an actor, Laurence Harvey and her mother a model, Paulene Stone. He died when she was very young and her mother remarried in the 1980s, marrying Peter Morton of the Morton’s restaurant and Hard Rock café fame. Domino studied the martial arts while in high school, and apparently was NOT a fashion model. While almost every source, including the film’s script goes along with the legend that she was a model of some type, either on the catwalks of London or for the Ford Agency in New York, a story this past July in the Los Angeles Times cites family and friends as definitive sources that she did not do any modeling. She did other things like designing clothes though. But the main part of her life that is left out of this film is that she apparently did drugs. Indications are she died of an overdose of the painkiller Fenatyl and she was under indictment for federal drug trafficking charges at the time of her death that carried a possible ten year prison term.

Now that you know a little of the true story, perhaps you’ll know why it would have made a better film than the fake story did. The film wasn’t bad, but it could have been better.

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