With A Dry Cool Wit Like That…

If you actually want to watch the movie Domino, I’d recommend you seek professional help—or at least not read the rest of this review, because it contains spoilers. I should also note that I didn’t pick this movie, or even hear about it before I got to the theater, I was invited.

Today I ended up watching Domino, a movie dedicated to a team of bounty hunters, criminals, and similar sociopathic stereotypes. The white leader is a Johnny Cash wannabe, albeit modified to expunge the self-reflection and conscience and include heavy weaponry. The Venezuelan character is a passionate psychotic who shoots someone’s arm off with a double-barreled shotgun without blinking. The white girl is a rich kid from Beverly Hills who doesn’t like her fellow rich girls—and while modeling is glamorous enough to satiate her narccissism, it just doesn’t have the fun of shutgun-toting raids, C&W bar bull-riding, and bra-n-panties lapdances to escape Mexican standoffs (involving Mexican gangs). Those are the main characters. The Afghan driver knows everything about blowing shit up, and the celebrity hostage gets his nose broken when he pulls the aforementioned rich-girl’s card and shows it to her in the hopes she learn something. Christopher “Scootch Closer” Walken appears as a TV executive, complete with the oversized, thick-rimmed, tinted, square glasses. Mina Suvari is the assistant.

Yeah, we get it. Even the casting is stereotyped.

The dialogue is horrible. There are other words for it, of course: “contrived,” “lame,” and such. But I think the most valuable lesson to future screenwriters (and any fiction writer, really), is that a potential catchphrase is something that occurs once in the movie, not every other time someone opens their mouths. It should also be noted that when your #2 protagonist starts waxing poetic about hunting the most dangerous game of all… Man as anything other than a hipster joke, your movie is in serious trouble.

The quick cutting, the re-enforcement of the bad writing by overlaying catchphrases on the screen as flashy subtitles, all the blood and gore, explosions and violence, none of the “why” expressions or the horror of evacuating souls, or even the self-reflection. Imagine if Natural Born Killers wasn’t satirical, but chose instead to overlay the killer’s words in white italic sans-serif text while they were saying them and you have this movie in a nutshell. Alternatively, you could take another of Stone’s works, Salvador and retell it from the point of view of those who raped the nuns and get a similar movie—obviously you’d have to drop the moralizing about the role of American journalism and journalists in U.S.-supported dictatorships.

Then there’s the finalé, where the the Afghan explosives expert-cum-driver decides to take out himself, the FBI swat team, two opposing mobsters, and the top few floors of a Vegas casino, all so the rich white girl without an ass to speak of can escape. She ends the movie, which was spent in flashback explaining what happened to FBI Agent Lucy Liue, by saying how she loves her mother while pulling herself out of her Beverly Hills mansion’s pool. Have I mentioned this movie was transparently contrived?

So far as the main character, Domino Harley (daughter of the actor who played Sgt. Shaw in the original Manchurian Candidate, a fact we’re constantly being interrupted with), I can empathize with the visceral reaction to hypocritical suburban conformity. But chosing to be a privatized enforcer against those who live outside both that conformity and the law is effectively deciding that you hate life inside the gated community so much you’re going to take up a gun and defend it from the bad poor people. If you want a life less stiltifying, go fight a revolution somewhere, or perhaps try your hand at battlefield medic. What about the Red Cross or MSF (Doctors Without Borders). Hell, for a real kick how about Smoke Jumping (parachuting into forest fires to hold them back until the bulk of the firefighters get there). Kicking down poor people’s doors for jumping bail is pure adrenaline addiction, but you can get your fix in positive ways—there are lots of junkie jobs that don’t contribute to the ruination of other human beings.

Hopefully, Hollywood won’t fuck up V for Vendetta and Aeon Flux, otherwise it will likely be another 2 years before I get to another movie in a first-run theater.

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3 Comments

  1. Iain says:

    I wanted to see it cos I’m shallow and think Kiera Knightly looks hot with short hair.

    However, given that racial stereotyping in movies can have a strong influence on people’s perception of a culture, is it too much of a leap to wonder if the portrayal of a Venezuelan as a gun totting psycho is an attempt to convince the American public that all Venezuelans are gun totting psychos and that it would be really nice of George (with help from some god that he seems to have mistaken for Jehovah) to “liberate” that country from their evil nasty smelling oil^h^h^hpresident?

    Just because I’m paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after me…

  2. James Cape says:

    Oh, I agree she’s gorgeous in the movie, albeit in that waifish, studded-denim, punk-hipster kinda way, but I find it easier to endulge in lusting after movie characters when they aren’t doing their best to win the “Best Crime against Humanity by a Protagonist” Oscar.

    So far as the Venezuelan character, I don’t think it’s supposed to be subtle propaganda in the ongoing Mendozaaaaaa!, erm, Chavezzzzzzz! campaign, but it did raise an eyebrow.

  3. Iain says:

    You can’t tell how she acts from the poster, which is what grabbed my attention.

    Yes, its probably not a subtle bit of propaganda, although I remember reading an article where the white house had asked movie studios to adjust their output to match white house opinion on who you are at war with. Down with Oceania!

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