Written by: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Yes, and we're glad he is. Part one of an ongoing look at the degenerative madness of Tony Scott
It would be easy to conclude, after watching Tony Scott’s Domino and his recent entry to the BMW series of supercommercials, Beat the Devil, that he is now an insane crazypants person and should be treated as such. How could we take seriously a director whose filmography includes such trashy classics as Top Gun, Days of Thunder and Beverly Hills Cop II? How could we give the time of day to a man who has seemingly dispensed with any normal storytelling techniques and replaced them with lurid cross-processing, bewildering subtitles, and more cuts than a Michael Bay climax?
I’ll tell you why: Because Scott at his core remains a strong, sure-footed storyteller and (more recently) a great director for actors. Yes, Days of Thunder is an embarrassment, but Crimson Tide remains a triumph of claustrophobic camera work and stolid acting. Indeed, a good movie night would be Sidney Lumet’s still-potent classic Twelve Angry Men followed by Scott’s Crimson Tide – you could almost imagine Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman in the Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb roles.
Starting with True Romance (still my favorite Scott film, still my favorite Tarantino film) Scott has eased away from the soulless, chrome sheen of Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II and moved resolutely toward the deranged, frenetic resonance of Man on Fire and Domino.
Don’t get me wrong: by mentioning Domino in the same breath as the actors’ showcase that is Man on Fire, I don’t mean to suggest that Domino is some kind of hard-hitting drama that you’ll live with for the rest of your life. Far from it. Scott has latched onto this crazy new moviemaking style, and he’s sticking to it, regardless of the tone or content of the movie. It serves Man on Fire reasonably well, but it’s a home-run for Domino, which churns through choppy multimedia scenes and vignettes like a highlight reel of videogame trailers.
What makes this insane moviemaking style so effective for this story, though, is the relentlessly interesting subject matter. True, Scott admits in the first few frames of Domino that’s he and creative team have fabricated much of Domino Harvey’s story – “Inspired by a true story,” the opening titles read, followed by, “Sort of.”
Fine. Domino’s story is still kooky as hell even when stripped to its basic elements: daughter of Hollywood movie star family abandons life of privilege to become a shotgun-toting bounty hunter. I’m giggling just writing that. Then Scott had the twisted good sense to cast fiery, wiry sexpot Keira Knightley in the title role along side such bounty-hunter-looking heavies as Edgar Ramirez (who is excellent) and Mickey Rourke (back in black and still bewilderingly fascinating to watch). And yes, the actual Domino Harvey was wafer-thin – we get a glimpse of the real Domino in the closing credits – but, dude! We just saw Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Carribean. She’s tiny.
But like I said: Domino is well-acted, yes – and I’ll touch on some of its better scenes later – but what carries this movie is an assault of fresh imagery. Let me repeat: fresh imagery. Calling an “image” in a movie “fresh” is fraught with pretension. It’s a fall-back phrase spouted by know-nothings and parroted by morons who don’t know what the fuck to say about a movie, so they say it’s “fresh.”
So what do I mean?
Domino is filled with stuff I haven’t seen before. It’s doesn’t break new ground thematically or deconstruct the postmodern paradigm or whatever – but it does show us a world-class model attack another model on the catwalk for bumping her. It shows us this same bounty hunter facing down a roomful of armed ganstas by offering the lead gang member a lapdance.
One classic scene shows Domino going through sorority hazing. A senior circles their cellulite with permanent ink, commenting on how ugly and out-of-shape the girls are. The senior arrives at Domino and comments on her “mosquito bite” breasts.
Domino asks, “Ever had a broken nose?”
“No,” the senior says.
Upon which Domino breaks her nose.
More freshness: A Winnebago tricked out like a cross between a gypsy cab and a WWII bomber driven by an Afgani freedom fighter. Tom Waits as a bible-toting, modern-day soothsayer (the movie’s only real classical device).
Because Domino reminded me that I have seen an alarming amount of Tony Scott movies — including one shameful viewing of Days of Thunder in the theater — I have no choice but to inaugurate a series examining Scott's move away from shit and toward something more memorable. And yes, I'm willing to put up with a few more cuts and camera jigs if it means Tony Scott tells a better story.
In short, I will answer a very basic and primal question that faces humanity … Do we have anything to fear from Tony Scott?
Author: Tony Lazlo, CC2K Staff Writer
Robert J. Peterson is a writer and web developer living in Los Angeles. A Tennessee native, he graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He’s written for newspapers and websites all over the country, including the Marin Independent Journal, the Telluride Daily Planet, CC2KOnline.com, Offscreen, and Geekscape.net. He co-hosts the podcasts Make It So and Hiram’s Lodge. He’s appeared as a pop-culture guru on the web talk shows Comics on Comics, The Fanbase Press Week In Review, Collider Heroes, ScreenJunkies TV Fights, and Fandom Planet. He’s the founder of California Coldblood Books.