Synopsis: Jude Law plays Dom Hemingway, a larger-than-life safecracker with a loose fuse who is funny, profane, and dangerous. After twelve years in prison, he sets off with his partner in crime Dickie (Richard E. Grant) looking to collect what he’s owed for keeping his mouth shut and protecting his boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir). After a near death experience, Dom tries to re-connect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke), but is soon drawn back into the only world he knows, looking to settle the ultimate debt.
Release Date: April 18, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Dom Hemingway is not your typical gangster movie and Dom Hemingway (the character) is not your typical British gangster. While he might have the greasy muttonchops and the heavy cockney accent, Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is more of a petty crook than a bona fide thug, and he’s a moralistic one at that.
About 12 years ago, Dom ended up getting caught in the middle of a heist-gone-wrong and sentenced to prison. He could have pointed the finger at his employer, Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), but that would have been uncool – and Dom considers himself a very cool person. At the same time, though, Dom also has some anger issues, and so when the story picks up with him on the day of his release, we find that nothing much has changed inside Dom, while everything else has changed around him. His daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) has grown up without a father and his close friend Dickie (Richard Grant) has learned the value of complacency, but the brash, foul-mouthed Dom has learned nothing.
In a lot of ways, the set-up for Dom Hemingway screams generic redemption story, but writer/director Richard Shepard smartly careens away from expectations. Rather, he lets Dom meander through his first few days of freedom with reckless abandon, further mucking up his few remaining personal relationships. It’s a refreshing approach to the gangster genre, and as a result it helps Dom Hemingway rise above anything that might be considered run-of-the-mill.
Here is a character who is so unequivocally foul, yet surprisingly charming, that you can’t help but laugh as his plight plunges deeper and deeper into despair. Some might be turned off by that approach – the decision to paint the film in a lot of (morally) grays and blacks – but that’s what makes Dom Hemingway feel unique. It’s a character piece where there are no big revelations or changes of heart, and any lessons learned are occasionally undermined by Hemingway’s poor decision-making skills. It’s also pretty hilarious.
To be fair, the film isn’t completely devoid of human emotion, but when it does get sentimental there’s still a comedic undertone to the scene. After all, you are watching this ugly brute of a man try and connect with other humans. The film’s more charming moments are not handled perfectly, mind you, but competently enough that you will feel like the film, much like Dom, still has a heart beating somewhere beneath its tar-coated facade.
Going into Dom Hemingway might require a bit of convincing, but most will be glad they took the journey with this cheeky Brit. They’ll laugh (a lot), roll their eyes at his stupidity, cover their eyes in shame, and even begin to empathize with the character. What’s more, audiences will enjoy the compact nature of the film: it gets in, leaves its mark, and gets out. From the excellent performance by Jude Law to the way the film, like its title character, drunkenly meanders from scene to scene, Dom Hemingway has no qualms about embracing its gleefully puerile main character and is all the better because of that. Let Dom take you on this journey, you won’t regret it.
While a lot of attention will be paid to Law’s performance in Dom Hemingway, equal credit is due Richard Shepard’s script for bringing the character to life. Hemingway might seem like a two-bit crook, but he’s a surprisingly eloquent speaker, delivering informed monologues that carry equal parts insight and entertainment. It’s truly impressive how Shepard can make such flowery language seem so natural coming out of a foul-mouthed degenerate.
The Dom Hemingway script is also extremely funny as both a solid British comedy and a satire of the gangster genre. Watching the character indulge every urge, oftentimes against his better judgment, is so much fun, partly because Law is so fantastic in the role and partly because the film’s writing is so sharp. Similarly, the film deserves recognition for never playing the easy card. It charges forward without hope and fully immerses the audience in the world of Hemingway, where happy endings and heartwarming moments are rare. It’s a refreshing approach, to say the least, and for the most part, it works.
It goes without saying that, without Jude Law, Dom Hemingway could have been a colossal failure. This is not just a career-defining role, it’s a transformative one, and immense props are due Law for diving headfirst into this character. Dom Hemingway asks a lot of Jude Law from moment to moment, and he delivers the whole way through. He makes the gleefully obscene monologues even better and the emotionally resonant scenes feel essential, not trite. The character of Dom Hemingway is one big farce, and he’s meant to be the butt of every joke. But he’s also the center of the film, an integral piece of the puzzle that required the right actor. Jude Law is that actor.
The supporting cast in Dom Hemingway is equally strong, even though Law obviously steals the show. They exist in this world and perform their jobs admirably, some as added comedic relief and others as the “straight man,” but they’re all playing second fiddle to Law.
You should know going in that Dom Hemingway is a foul man, and as a result, the film gets pretty obscene. Take the opening scene for example, in which Hemingway muses on the exquisiteness of his member while receiving oral sex from a fellow inmate. That’s the kind of stuff you’re likely to find in Dom Hemingway: absurdity with British undertones and a very R-rated sensibility. In other words, if a character that spews epithets more often than anything else isn’t your cup of tea then it’s best to avoid this film. It’s not purposefully vile – the cursing and crude nature of the film fit in perfectly with the character – but it’s easy to see some people being turned off by all aspects of Dom Hemingway.
However, if you’re the type of person who enjoys a good raunchy character piece from time to time, this will be right up your alley. Hemingway is such a fun character to watch on screen, regardless of what he’s doing. His dialogue bits are spot-on combinations of aloofness and carelessness, and what action there is in the film is equally belly laugh-inducing. If you feel right at home with the British humor of say, a Guy Ritchie film, then Dom Hemingway will not disappoint.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Richard Shepard
- Screenwriter(s): Richard Shepard
- Cast: Jude Law (Dom Hemingway), Emilia Clarke (Evelyn), Demian Bichir (Mr. Fontaine)
- Editor(s): Dana Congdon
- Cinematographer: Giles Nuttgens
- Music Score: Rolfe Kent
- Country Of Origin: USA