Tony Scott's psychedelic 2005 movie, (sort of) based on the true story of the life of Domino Harvey as interpreted by screenwriter Richard Kelly.
The movie begins fast and furiously, with bounty hunter Harvey (Keira Knightley) and her partners - smolderingly handsome but psychotic Choco (Edgar Ramirez) and hardened professional Ed (Mickey Rourke) - kicking in the door of a trailer in the desert. It quickly gets grisly: there's a severed arm which has the key to a safe encoded on it and millions of dollars locked in the safe and the arm's owner alive and delirious with pain. In flashbacks and flashforwards the film reveals the unlikely (and fictitious) story of how Harvey and co. ended up in this place, trading bullets with the mother of the arm's owner, and what they did after she used the arm to open the safe.
The background of Harvey's life is quickly sketched in. She was the daughter of a famous actor and a well-known model. Rebellious from an early age, she was kicked out of boarding school several times and ended up as a shiftless teenager living with her mother in Beverly Hills. She worked as a model for a spell, and then became a bounty hunter; it is in this role that she became embroiled in the events with the millions and the arm and the bullets.
There's some good things about this movie. It looks great, all frenetic and weirdly coloured, wild and anarchic and exciting - apparently the pinnacle of where Scott has been heading as a filmmaker. The horrendous violence of the beginning does not continue unabated (thank heavens), and is mitigated by some genuinely hilarious moments.
The running Beverly Hills 90210 joke is pretty funny, and Christopher Walken and Mena Suvari do an amusing turn as a TV producer and his assistant filming Harvey and her pals for a reality TV show. But I laughed out loud when Lateesha (Mo'Nique) espouses her theory of interracial identity on the Jerry Springer show. Lateesha considers herself a Blacktino woman, and introduces a flow chart that details various permutations of Asian-African American intermixing, including Chinegro and Japanic. Lateesha's ostensible reason for being on the Jerry Springer show - a sick granddaughter whose teenage mother can't afford to pay for a needed operation - gets lost in the inevitable brawl. Afterwards, Lateesha's boyfriend - and Harvey's boss - bail bondsman Claremont Williams (Delroy Lindo) berates her for getting sidetracked, at which Lateesha shoots back that Jerry's show is one of the only fora for people like her to speak their minds. Girl's got a point.
There's some bad things about this movie. The lame semiotics of toughness relies primarily on smoking and swearing and sneering, all of which isn't enough to make Knightley convincing in her role. I was also annoyed at how she was so relentlessly sexually objectified. No matter what she's been up to, she always looks hot with her heavy kohl-lined eyes, bustiers, and ultra-low cut jeans. When she finds herself face to face with half a dozen armed thugs staring down the barrels of guns, she extracts herself by stripping and lap dancing. Besides being degrading, this portrayal bears little resemblance to the real Harvey, who was pretty but, more importantly, fearless, tough, and butch. (She was also a drug addict, and died of an overdose just before the movie was finished.)
Finally, at over two hours the movie is just too long, and would have benefitted from being cut to a tight 90 minutes. I'm sure most viewers wouldn't have minded losing the irritating repetition of words and phrases - Harvey tells us her name and profession at least a dozen times, often accompanied by written echoes, when once would have sufficed. The plot is overly convoluted and sometimes just silly; the whole section with Tom Waits could have been cut and the movie would not have lost any important story arc, and would in fact have become slightly more coherent. I couldn't help but think that Scott was so enamoured of his footage that he couldn't bear to lose any, more's the pity for us.
So, in the end, this is an entertaining enough movie that falls far short of greatness. Fun if you're in the mood for something like this.