Tony Scott's unfortunate death, which floored me this morning and I'm sure a lot of other fans, has made me need to revisit DOMINO (2003), which in a weird way I think is maybe his most personal film. Scott's films tended to be both overrated and underrated. Like his older brother Ridley, a master of light and sound who'll go the extra distance for just the right shot, but hamstrung by second-guessing and overediting, But Tony delivered consistently and leaves behind a legacy of beautiful and true moments in film and he was one of only a handful of working filmmakers who could be discussed in the same sentence as Peckinpah or John Huston. Perhaps he's right now out carousing with his friend, the real-life Domino Harvey, who died at 35 of a possible drug overdose (ruled as heart attack) the year the film was released. Maybe she's waiting at the bottom of the ocean with a bounty hunter badge for him, and together they'll hunt down errant souls. He'd like that, I'm sure. If you ever see him in the DVD extras to his films he always seems like he's got one eye on the exit or the horizon, half fully engaged (if it's possible, and with him I think it was) and half recoiling from the acres of hangers-on and crew and cast all wanting something. thinking about ducking off into the sunrise with nothing but a cooler, a gun, a suitcase of money, and a girl. If you have the gun and girl, why do you even need to make a movie? Keep it simple. Just make sure the girl is the right girl and is not afraid to wear lots of black eyeliner or shoot someone execution-style without demanding the film conform to some anti-gun violence / non-smoking / condom-conscious moral reform code or credo as so many A-list stars do. Scott never bowed to the PC reformers: in his films everyone smoked, because he liked to film the way sunlight through half-open blinds and cigarette smoke intermingle, and if you thought it was wrong to smoke indoors on a film set, for the health of the crew and the easily influenced kids watching at home, then go fuck yourself. Art with Scott bowed not to PC thuggery. Words can't express how rare or wondrous that attitude is in a land where everyone talks about being bad and subversive while having fainting spells and calling their lawyers if the road takes them even remotely close something like a genuine edge.
I'm listening to my sad mix tapes right now, wondering if it's just Monday blues synchronizing with this man's passing, or something more prophetic, the first fallen soldier in the first day of fall, the last full season of our old Mayan calendar existence....
DOMINO (2003) Keira Knightley as Domino Harvey
You can badmouth Tony Scott but if you do, and someone bashes a high contrast, color saturated beer bottle over your head, DOMINO is the proof you had it coming. Knightley is in good company with Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez, all three have no problem being as balls-to-the-wall badass and Tony Scott takes every opportunity to bash and savage the whinin' boys of the Hollywood industry when these bounty hunters get their option picked up. Knightley is so good when she says "I'm not afraid to die," you believe her. There are a lot of chicks I know who may have turned out a lot healthier mentally if they were able to get bounty hunter jobs instead of just being models with drug habits.
Even if you've seen it, just watch it again, and then again, and you'll still be soaking up the details. Maybe she doesn't actually kill anyone (that I recall) but she does break a douchebag's nose just cuz he's a douche and deserves it (in a lesser film he'd just fall down and in the next scene he'd be fine, not here) and maybe the big mob stand-off climax seems like cliched overkill and much too similar to his earlier TRUE ROMANCE but you can bet he tried the script and plot a dozen different ways before realizing this was the best and most cinematic, and was full well aware of its derivative Hong Kong-ishness and it being ultimately un-like the real Domino, but as she says in the film, if she told us the full truth it would have to be sanitized so she wouldn't go to jail or have mobsters on her ass, and Scott knew it would be better to just lie bigger than truth smaller. And anyway, they do way too much mescaline very convincingly.
Knightley's white satin beauty and adamantium razor cheekbone toughness is backed up by a strange and effective roster of side players like Christopher Walken, Delroy Lindo, Mo'Nique, Tom Waits, Mena Suvari, Macy Gray, Jacqueline Bissett, Dabney Coleman and Lucy Liu. Even against all these hard hitters, Kierra kills it.
Patricia Arquette - as Alabama - TRUE ROMANCE (1993)
It's both hard and too easy to dig up misogynistic subtext in Tony Scott's films, but the fact is he loves showing super strong women who love their man and aren't disgusted if he still reads comic books and stays indoors watching Kung Fu movies on a sunny day. This was rare in 1993, the era that saw the rise of both Nirvana and PC ball-busting.
An example would be the way she finds Christian Slater's murder of her pimp incredibly romantic... when we in the audience and Slater, like any PC-era antihero, are expecting a long moral harangue about the wrongness of violence like Liz Hurley might lecture Austin Powers on safe sex, or John Connor his Terminator about "you can't just go around killing people." And we love the way Alabama faces off against hulking mob goon (the future Tony Soprano) in a fearless deadpan, half-laughing, letting her bag of womanly tricks and feints run empty at will, mixing coy laughter and sudden, brutal, outside-the-box retaliations. I personally like TRUE a lot better than QT's directorial debut, RESERVOIR DOGS, which gets better as it goes along but has a painfully overwrought beginning (after the awesome diner scene) with much too much of Tim Roth yelling in pain like a little punter and fake blood and monotonous decor. Alabama is ten times tougher; you can imagine her getting gut shot and just laughing about it while never trying to deny her mortal terror. That sort of chutzpah we really don't see again until Daniel Craig finds a way to laugh uproariously through his ball torture in CASINO ROYALE. Scott saw that women had to be tougher and stronger than men every day, and loved them for it. As we love them always now through his eyes, and will miss him.