Tag Archives: Domino

Tony Scott’s Domino

Domino is Tony Scott’s fire roasted, charbroiled, turbo charged masterpiece. I’ve seen it over fifty times and every time I seem to enjoy it more. It’s pure unfiltered Scott, free from the nagging pressures of the studio, financed by his own company, a loving treatise of pure style and breakneck kamikaze energy that doesn’t let you breathe for a second. It’s loosely based on the life of Hollywood baby turned rough and tumble bounty hunter Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), daughter of actor Laurence Harvey. She leaves the 90210 world of rich snobs and gilded mansions to pursue a grittier path, in the form of restless underground law enforcement. Now, the film sheepishly admits it’s not entirely based on a true story before the credits even start, so as long as you know that much of it is fantasy going in, you won’t feel cheated. Knightley is a pissed off, sparking roman candle in the role of her career, shedding the dainty image and going full furious grunge, giving Domino an alternative edge and damaged pathos that fuels much of the film’s kinetic energy. Mickey Rourke plays her grizzled boss Ed Moseby, a veteran bounty hunter with a trail of violence behind him, who’s weary and tough in equal parts. Rourke fires on all cylinders, giving some of his simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking, badass and best work. Edgar Ramiraz plays scrappy Choco, third musketeer and eventual lover to Domino with fiery Latin charisma. Christopher Walken, weird mode fully activated, waltzes in as a reality TV producer with the attention span of a ferret on chrystal meth, Mena Suvari as his squirrelly assistant, Lucy Liu as a prim, OCD afflicted federal agent who verbally spars with Knightley in flash forwards, Delroy Lindo is excellent as their bail bondsman handler Claremont Williams, and there’s scuzzy work from Dale Dickey, Lew Temple, Macy Gray, Monique, Dabney Coleman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jerry Springer and more. Just to sample some of the esoteric weirdness that goes hand in hand with the hard boiled crime elements, Tom Waits has a beautifully perplexing cameo as a spiritual wanderer who has a mysterious meeting with Domino and her friends in the Mojave desert, imparting some prophetic truth to them that only Scott and the sand dunes are in on. This is the kind of film that grabs you by the collar and hurls you down an asphalt horizon of hallucinatory camera work, brings you an intricate, lurid story of true crime gone wrong, and a balls to the wall depiction of life at its fastest, wildest and most out of control, as only the maestro of such things, Scott, can bring you. Domino, at least in this film, lives a crazy life that culminates in a hellish Mexican standoff and subsequent shootout atop a Space Needle-esque Vegas casino, a fitting way for a Scott film to come full circle and certainly not the first time he’s ended one in that situation. He uses cinematic magic to create visual poetry here, his sucker punch editing, nebulous display of scorched out colours, thunderous symphony of sound design and hectic, buzzing aesthetic isn’t for everyone but it’s something truly unforgettable and a style wholly his own, I truly miss the guy and believe he was one of maybe the ten best filmmakers to ever work in Hollywood. This is by far his best film, definitely his most personal and also the most arresting vision he’s ever sculpted, it will leave you haunted, pummelled, fired up and deliciously puzzled. Domino ironically says in voiceover near the end, “I’ll never tell you what it all meant”. Scott tells you, in his own special way, and if you’re tuned in to his otherworldly frequency you’ll treasure this masterwork as much as I do, and will continue to for years to come.

-Nate Hill


Top Ten Mickey Rourke Performances: A list by Nate Hill


Mickey Rourke has been called the Hollywood outlaw by some, a difficult outsider by others, a master of his craft by anyone with sense, and has never not been a completely surprising thespian who refuses to reside within one box for long. He’s an outspoken, candid guy who has never been afraid of speaking his mind or laying down the verbal hammer. For me, Mickey is an undisputed genius of his craft and has shined like a brilliant nebula of talent, intuition and brilliance in each and every role he has brought to our screens. Here are my personal top ten performances from one of my all time favourite actors: 

10. Billy Chambers in Once Upon A Time In Mexico


Director Robert Rodriguez allowed Mickey to carry around his own personal chihuahua (something that he has walked off of a set in a huff over in the past), and encouraged him to wear his personal shiny purple suit to play Chambers, a gruff cowboy hiding out in Mexico and working for a ruthless cartel boss (Willem Dafoe, a frequent Rourke collaborator). Chambers seems like a sly amalgamation of several early characters he played, world weary from too many skirmishes and events gone wrong, marinating in the Mexican sun and wishing for an exodus from criminal life. Billy has trouble with the sadistic tasks which the cartel orders him to carry out, showing a delineation between a life of crime and an evil path. Regretful, posturing and laconic, the first team up between Rourke and Rodriguez turns out to be a delight. 
9. Captain Stanley White in Year Of The Dragon


Rourke first did a bit part for manic maestro Michael Cimino in the notorious Heaven’s Gate, a precursor to his turn in this blistering cop film as a belligerent, hard nosed and uncompromising cop who will do anything in his power, and even a few things outside it, to bring down a Chinese crime syndicate. White has tunnel vision, a Viet Nam war veteran whose internal battery is set on search and destroy mode regardless of any collateral damage, of which there is a considerable amount. Rourke takes a blow torch to the character until the edges flare and fray, never letting the heat lower for a second, be it an introspective moment that smoulders or one of many thunderous outbursts of self righteous, racist fury. 
8. Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson


Some see this role as Rourke’s comeback, but similar to Randy ascending the ranks of his former glory only to take a hazardous dive off the ring and back down again, such was the case for Rourke, who is back to smaller films. For a single piercing couple hours, he brought us legendary work in an Oscar nominated turn that burns deep, encased in Darren Aronofsky’s intrepid direction. Randy is a fallen Titan who is looking for another shot in both his professional and personal life, and Rourke gives him the presence to hit home. 
7. The Motorcycle Boy in Rumble Fish


Returning from a mysterious motorbike odyssey, speaking in cryptically poetic fashion and filling out the restless bad boy archetype like no other, this is one of Rourke’s most fascinating turns, in a surreal black & white tumble town that evokes the 1950’s beautifully. He’s relaxed yet uneasy, friendly yet vaguely portentous and obtains an intangible state of heightened awareness with his work that you can never quite pin down or explain properly in words. His character’s resolution seem fittingly oblique, matched by his performance that simultaneously cries out and holds back, often mirroring each other eerily. 
6. Jim Olstadt in The Pledge


Sean Penn cast Rourke for an appearance that lasts for less than a minute, and he manages to quietly devastate and then some within that time. He plays a grieving father who is questioned by Jack Nicholson’s obsessed detective about his young daughter, who disappeared several years before. Unshaven, chain smoking and hiding behind a vacant expression, Nicholson’s queries trigger a well of raw anguish which spill out unforced into the certain and seem remarkably genuine. It’s uncomfortable, despairing and you just want to walk right into the screen and give poor Olstadt a hug. His work is that good, a gem of an appearance in probably the best film on this list. 
5. Marv in Sin City


When Robert Rodriguez told Frank Miller of his notion to cast Rourke as the hulking bruiser Marv, Miller’s response was “What, that skinny guy from Body Heat?”. Rodriguez had a vision though, which Rourke followed through with in legendary fashion. Marv has to be played by a performer with the right presence (Ron Perlman and Clancy Brown could have taken a decent crack), someone with somber grit and just the right shot of blackest humour. Rourke sets the role on fire, filling every gorgeously composed frame with his Boulder tough, terrifying and surprisingly touching take on the character.
4. Ed Moseby in Domino


The title of most legendary bounty hunter in Los Angeles is a pretty steep hill for any actor to start out on in at the beginning of their performance. Mentor to Domino Harvey, street smart professional, world weary badass and all around character, Ed is one third of the film’s psychedelic soul and Rourke charges full guns ahead with the work, pausing at penultimate crossroads to show us the seething regret and sadness that Ed harbours beneath the violence and tough guy shell. There’s one scene with co star Edgar Ramirez that seems pulled straight from Rourke’s own history, where the camera sits still long enough to allow him to show piercing truth. 
3. Charlie in The Pope Of Greenwich Village


Charlie is a small time thug who does his absolute best to not be a screw up. Only problem, he’s saddled with best friend Paulie (Eric Roberts) who happens to be the biggest screw up this planet has ever seen. The pair are comic dynamite, Rourke setting off on exasperated tirades whenever Roberts gets them in hot water, and then using his brand of cunning and survival instinct to bail them out. Rourke shows a fox-like resourcefulness, a hurricane of anxious energy that cools over when evasive action is required. Charlie is Rourke in his youth and loving the game, firing synaptic bursts of energy at Roberts and receiving them back in synergy, showing off what a great onscreen duo they make.
2. The Cook in SPUN


A cowboy hat wearing, meth cooking oddball hardly seems like the type of character to land an emotional punch, and for the most part you’d be right to think that. Rourke is like Jim Carrey in the mask here, inhabiting an overblown and dizzyingly stylistic aesthetic that exists to show us the unhinged lifestyle of meth addicts. He jumps from serious to scary to funny to sad so quick it’s hard to put the puzzle of his character together, until a n emotional wipeout of a monologue that’s delivered late in the last act, bringing his sad arc full circle. Be it a seminar on the political qualities of Pussy, a whopper of a tiff with girlfriend Brittany Murphy or a brief tongue in cheek encounter with Eric Roberts, it’s glitzy grungy playtime all the way, until we get to that one extended speech, which halts the mayhem and sobers the viewer up post-delirium. It’s tearful in a film where you’d last expect it, and Rourke handles the 180 degree turn like the master he is. 
1. Harry Angel in Angel Heart


In one of the finest and most flat out unnerving southern gothic horror films ever made, Rourke throws himself at the role of a down and out private detective who is hired by a sinister Robert De Niro to find a missing singer who doesn’t even seem to exist at all. Harry starts off in control, assured, well travelled. His nerves begin to shake when a trail of hideously murdered bodies pile up behind him, seemingly connected to his search. Rourke slowly unscrews the lid of Harry’s sanity in a sweaty frenzy of fractured machismo and blossoming terror, his fear riling up the audience with each new grisly discovery. There’s plot revelations, shocking violence, the mother of all graphic sex scenes, steeped melodrama and a near constant state of primeval fear, all infused into his performance with skill and tact. For me, Rourke has never been more ‘Rourke’, in all facets, than he was as Angel. 

Episode 18: TONY SCOTT’S DOMINO and Top Five Tony Scott and Mickey Rourke

Episode 18

We’re back with a regular episode!  It’s been too long, so we’re here to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Tony Scott’s seminal film, DOMINO.  Along with our thoughts on DOMINO, we also discuss our top five Tony Scott films and top five Mickey Rourke performances.



Without question or hesitation, I can firmly state that Domino is my absolute favorite Tony Scott film, the one I keep coming back to the most, and at 10 years old, I feel it’s time that this insanely undervalued pièce de résistance from one of our ultimate modern auteurs got the critical attention and audience credit that it truly deserved. Ahead of its time yet also fabulously au courant when the film was unleashed upon cinemas in 2005, Domino is a smashing entertainment, the perfect synthesis of Scott’s gritty yet slick, highly aggressive style that he developed in the 80’s and 90’s with The Hunger, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, and The Fan, which then led to a decidedly expressionistic (and at times impressionistic) aesthetic in the mid to late 2000’s, with such works as Man on Fire, Beat the Devil, Agent Orange, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and his final film, the hard-charging and incredibly entertaining Unstoppable, pushing his trademark visual flourishes to the absolute extreme. Sandwiched in between were his two “silver-blue sheen” political thrillers Enemy of the State and Spy Game, with the former sort of predicting our post 9/11 world climate, and the latter commenting on it in real-time. But for me, Domino is the *Toniest* Tony Scott film that the iconic filmmaker ever crafted.


Easily one of the most misunderstood, sadly maligned films of the last decade, Domino is due to gain a much-deserved cult following. It bombed at the box office, and with the exception of a few sharp critics (Ebert, Dargis, Strauss), people really attacked Scott over this distinctly personal and hyperactive piece of purposefully heightened cinema. And make no mistake, like an effort by Picasso, Domino is a work of collage-inspired art, maybe the first piece of true cubist-cinema ever crafted, leading a super-charged group with the likes of Running Scared by Wayne Kramer, Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces and Stretch, Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘em Up, and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs.The World, all of which feel spiritually and stylistically connected to Scott’s over the top yet highly artistic sensibilities. Simply put, Domino is one of the most visually elaborate and sophisticated movies ever created, and all of these efforts feel birthed from the seismic contribution that Oliver Stone’s breakneck masterwork Natural Born Killers brought to the forefront in 1994, with its unrelenting sense of visual dynamism, outlandish humor, graphic violence, experimental tone and structure, and an emphasis on constant forward momentum. It’s also more important to note that Scott went on record as saying that Domino was his most favorite film that he ever directed; at the end of the day, he got the movie made the way he wanted to make it, and that says a lot in our current bean-counting movie climate.


I know that this is Scott’s most divisive, most critically savaged film. Many people hate it. Some people, like me, consider it to be the apex of Scott’s razzle-dazzle career as a storyteller and stylist, with a wild cast of characters (Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Mo’Nique, Christopher Walken, Dabney Coleman, Delroy Lindo and many others) who all throw themselves into the filmmaking process with gusto and unending enthusiasm for the lurid material. The film is a slightly insane, pseudo-biopic of infamous bounty hunter Domino Harvey (the fantastic Knightley) that exists primarily as a showcase for Scott’s obsession with style and form and, as per usual, a heartfelt narrative. What makes Domino work as a whole is that the story is as unhinged as the style, always complimenting each other, always doing this crazy cinematic dance. Also, many people forget that much of the film takes place through a cloud of mescaline, and most of the third act incorporates a hallucinogenic-trip aspect to the proceedings. And then there’s Domino herself – a wild, rebellious British model turned bounty hunter who wanted only to march to the beat of her own drum. The real Domino Harvey did in fact lead a crazy life, but it probably wasn’t as over the top as Richard Kelly’s crisscrossing and zigzagging script, which was based on a story co-created by The Last Seduction scribe Steve Barancik. The filmmakers make it clear upfront that they’ve taken liberties with the facts – there’s even a graphic that reads: “Based on a true story…sort of.” What I love most about Domino is how frenetic and in your face the filmmaking is, and how incredibly intricate the plotting becomes by the finale. Scott’s hyperventilating and exhilarating style would mean diddly-squat if it wasn’t in service to an exciting plot with characters you like and stakes that are high. Knightley shredded her good-girl image with her balls-out performance as the titular heroine; from the lap-dance scene to breaking Brian Austin Green’s nose to busting out the double machine guns during the finale, she grabbed the role and ran with it. Mickey Rourke’s recent career resurgence really began here, with a gruff and stern performance as Domino’s boss. And Edgar Ramirez, who would later blaze up the screen in the epic five hour terrorist biopic Carlos, busted out in a big way as Domino’s volatile partner, Choco, and the love story that develops between them is as soft and tender as the rest of the film is jagged and primal.


Many complained that Scott’s directorial tricks and kinetic editing patterns were a major problem in Domino. To those individuals I say: Go home and watch Driving Miss Daisy. First off, lest anyone forget, the film is framed through the P.O.V. of a main character who is tripping on mind-altering substances – that should be the first sign to the viewer that the film is going to be a bit off-kilter. Kelly’s labyrinthine yet still coherent screenplay is a marvel of ingenuity, character construction, and dense plotting with a couple of his customary satiric zingers thrown in for good measure. Daniel Mindel’s super-saturated, kaleidoscopic cinematography bleeds with intense color as the images jump off the screen, assaulting and overwhelming the viewer’s senses – it’s a hot-blooded cinegasm of technique, designed to get you off. Repeatedly. And when you take into consideration that Kelly’s off-the-wall but still rooted in reality screenplay frequently shoots off in various directions at any given point, always carrying the potential to spin wildly out of control, you have to applaud the zeal of all the people behind this crazy undertaking. Strip away all the pyrotechnics and the nonlinear structure and you’re left with a rather simple story of love, deceit, revenge, and emotional and physical catharsis. And let me tell you – if you don’t find it cinematically satisfying when Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez are speeding down that elevator shaft in the Stratosphere hotel while the penthouse level is exploding from an I.E.D., well, I’m not sure what to tell you!


There are just so many glorious sights that this movie has to offer: The epic opening credit sequence which needs to be played at full volume blast, Christopher Walken stealing scenes as a lunatic reality TV producer with a serious “font issue,” Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green destroying their 90210 celebrity personas in hilarious cameos, Tom Waits as a tripped-out roamer of the desert with some poetic and interesting notions regarding fate, Knightley giving a bra and panty lap dance to a gang member in order to get her crew out of trouble – this movie never stops chugging and churning, throwing stuff at the audience, egging them on for a visceral response. The Jerry Springer interlude with the unveiling of the “mixed-race flow chart” is still a pisser for the ages, and overall, the bizarre nature of the narrative can never really be pinned down, which is a huge part of the fun factor. This was Tony Scot unleashed, the moment where you felt Scott put ALL OF HIMSELF into making a movie. It’s that rare, expensive, personal project that only gets funded by private investors who then let the filmmaker do whatever it is that they want. Domino is Tony Scott’s undying love letter to cinema as a whole and stands as his immortal masterpiece. As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times said in her glowing review of the film: “It’s all the Tony Scott you could want in a Tony Scott movie.” Damn straight.