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Mark Palermo is a bounty hunter.


Tony Scott’s Domino takes the high contrast visuals, flashy edits, mobile subtitles and seasick camera work of his Man on Fire to the next extreme. It’s a mainstream movie stylized to the point where it’s no longer mainstream. That’s part of its non-conformist kick. The sort of true story of bounty hunter Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) is viewed under the wide-ranging satirical eye of Richard Kelly’s script. Born rich — she’s the daughter of film actor Laurence Harvey — Domino never adapts to her privileged Beverly Hills surroundings. Her fearless attitude and Suicide Girl prettiness are seen as an advantage by a couple of haggard bounty hunters (Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez) who take her as their partner. These are Domino’s closest friends; this is where she belongs. When the group is confronted by a WB executive (Christopher Walken) about appearing in the reality show The Bounty Squad, the movie looks like it will become a cartoon. But the writing’s take on culture clash remains sharp. Scott and Kelly’s movie attacks from all angles through a simple central conceit: Living in a 90210 world, Domino’s staying hardkorrr. Although Domino is destined to attract the “style without substance” cliche, there’s really plenty of substance. The characters are colourfully defined. And Scott throws in small details that reshape the big picture. Closeups of an eagle on American currency and a shot of a coin being flipped in front of a statue of Christ ponder whether money can ever again be seen as a sign of a person’s nobility. If there are problems with Scott’s brain-fried energy, they come from the style being placed on top of the content — muffling it, instead of working together as an organic, important entity. A couple scenes that should be disturbing are distanced, through the onslaught of rock songs and rapid editing, by glib coolness. Tony Scott’s latest is a mess; it’s wild and unruly to the point of almost encouraging viewers to hate it. But it’s alive. There’s a lot to sort through in Domino, and it’s vibrant and funny enough to be worth the effort.

Pretty Persuasion

“My last choice, no offence, is Arab,” teenage hell-spawn Kimberly Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) tells her newly immigrated classmate Randa (Adi Schnall), concerning what race she would choose to be if she weren’t blessed with whiteness. That formula of oppression masquerading as concern is central to Pretty Persuasion. Written by former Toronto web reviewer Skander Halim (one of the few film critics whose approach I identify with), the very dark comedy is about the crossing point of righteousness and exploitation. Kimberly and Randa, along with their friend Brittany (Elisabeth Harnois), accuse English professor Mr. Anderson (Ron Livingston) of sexual assault when he doesn’t offer Kimberly the lead in the school play. Halim’s movie comes close to being really good satire, except it’s too bloated and too silly. The scarily unhinged performances by young Ms. Wood and James Woods as her racist father are blunted by nearly everyone in the film inhabiting a sociopath caricature. The film is let down further by Marcos Siega’s direction, which is as stylistically undefined as his work on Underclassman. It’s the movie’s ability to surprise that keeps its decadence unsettling instead of just unfunny. If Pretty Persuasion fumbles in execution, it’s interesting in theory, and especially in retrospect.

Thoughts, present or retro:

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