'Domino' falls under its own featherweight

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We first see L.A. bounty hunter Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley) leading the charge in a shoot-'em-up assault that will have you clutching your ears and shielding your eyes. Don't worry - you're not missing much.

Speaking over the din, Domino, who looks like a high-fashion model even in battle fatigues, asks the obvious: "You're probably wondering, How did I get here?" After sitting through "Domino" for more than two hours, I'm still wondering.

The real-life Domino, who died in June at 35 of an apparent overdose, was the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey and supermodel socialite Pauline Stone, played by Jacqueline Bisset. Clearly what lured director Tony Scott, who knew Domino, and screenwriter Richard Kelly, is the massive contradiction of her life: Born into the glamour of London and Beverly Hills, she ended up a female Rambo. Since the filmmakers are interested only in shock and sensation, it should come as no surprise that their movie, which strategically omits Domino's drug addictions, is a celebration.

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Scott has been careful to point out that his movie is far from a straight biography - as if we couldn't tell that anyway. The director of such psychological masterpieces as "Top Gun" and "True Romance" hasn't changed his spots. Whatever reality the actual Domino may have possessed has been sliced and diced by Scott's usual barrage of whiplash camera work and rat-a-tat editing, complete with flashbacks, flash forwards, and flash in-betweens. Domino interests him only as an action figure. Wielding her weapons, she strikes huffy poses and snarls on cue. She's about as "real" as tomb raider Lara Croft.

It's difficult to imagine an actress less suited to this mayhem than Knightley, who specializes in glam damsel roles and always looks as if a stiff wind could knock her flat. As Domino, she's so far out of her depth (or is it shallowness?) that her performance takes on a perverse fascination. There hasn't been a piece of miscasting this complete since Leonardo DiCaprio slapped on a thin moustache to play Howard Hughes. By default, Mickey Rourke as Domino's mentor and Christopher Walken as a demented TV executive step in to fill the void. There's lots to fill.

Given the decibel level of this movie, it's a miracle that these guys were able to give creditable performances. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the achievement: Imagine delivering a stirring rendition of the Gettysburg Address while standing under Niagara Falls. Grade: C-

Rated R for strong violence, language, sexual content/nudity, and drug use.

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