2014, R, 93 mins.
2014, R, 93 mins.
Jude Law as Dom Hemingway / Richard E. Grant as Dickie / Demián Bichir as Mr. Fontaine / Emilia Clarke as Evelyn / Kerry Condon as Melody / Mădălina Diana Ghenea as Paolina
Written and directed by Richard Shepard
Shepard’s black comedy/crime drama DOM HEMINGWAY goes brazenly for broke
in its opening scene and never once apologizes for itself, nor does it
sheepishly look back.
introductory monologue is also a rallying cry for the reinvention of Jude
Law, who seems to be breaking the fourth wall and bellowing to the
audience to forget his past resume of playing relative good guys.
In this scene we are introduced to Law’s title character, an ace
East Ender safecracker that’s just coming off of a 12-year prison
sentence. In one lingering,
static, and unbroken bravura shot that seems to go on forever, we witness
Dom boisterously preach the gospel of his own sexual stamina and joyously
champions the powers of his…let’s say…manhood.
As he goes on and on and on about his hedonistic prowess, the
camera slowly pulls back to reveal a fellow inmate, just sitting below his
waist, and…well…you can fill in the blanks from here.
scene immediately sets the overall tone of DOM HEMINGWAY, which seems to
bask more in the splendor of Law’s truly enrapturing and ferocious
performance than it does with, say, nuances of storytelling and narrative
cohesion. Shepard, as a filmmaker, is no stranger to focusing his
spotlight on lovable criminal losers that engage in wanton unethical behavior
(see his terribly underrated THE MATADOR,
featuring a career best performance by Pierce Brosnan), and DOM HEMINGWAY
continues his penchant for dealing with scenery-chewing anti-heroes whose
innate vulgarity matches their introverted vulnerability.
Even when the film seems to be confused and muddled as to what
precise kind of story it wishes to tell, there’s no denying that Law’s
toweringly charismatic tour de force performance here keeps viewers
intrinsically captivated; when he’s on-screen, the film has an ethereally
mentioned, Dom has been put away for a decade-plus, but being a semi-honor
bound man, he has kept his lips sealed about any accomplices to his
unspecified ill deed. When
finally released, Dom engages in an all-out orgy bender of drugs and
prostitutes, but eventually reconnects with his old pal Dickie (Richard E.
Kelly, marvelously droll here) and his employer Mr. Fontaine (Demian
Bichir), who owes Dom a debt for not squealing on him.
Fontaine gives Dom a gift on nearly one million pounds, but when a
wicked car accident – and more aggressively uncivilized behavior –
befalls Dom, he finds himself losing the money.
To make matters even worse for him, Dom attempts to reconnect with
his estranged daughter, Evelyn (GAME OF THRONES’ Emilia Clarke), who
wants nothing to do with her father, seeing as he left both her and her
dying mother when he was incarcerated.
This is just the beginning of Dom’s sordid and distressed
rehabilitation back into society.
nothing inherently original or refreshing about the central narrative to
DOM HEMINGWAY that we’ve all not see countless times before in other
crime films (i.e. – the vicious, foul tempered, and violence-prone crook
that’s trying to go legit and straight, but finds many obstacles in his
path). Yet, Shepard makes up
for the film’s more conventional undertones by infusing in it a
carefree urgency and sense of wild unpredictability to the proceedings;
you’re never really 100 per cent sure where Dom’s journey of
redemption is going to take him next.
This is also assisted by Shepard’s razor sharp, crackerjack
dialogue exchanges where characters engage in endlessly cyclical rants and
arguments that have a dizzying, yet lyrical symmetry about them.
The words that come out of Dom’s mouth may indeed be more
colorfully grandiose and theatrical than grounded and realistic, per se, but
they help to accentuate him as a persona with a profanely larger than life
is clearly Jude Law’s film through and through; it seems only inevitable
that other side characters get a bit lost in the limelight when under his
omnipresent shadow. I’ve
rarely seen Law – sporting muttonchops, a greased back receding
hairline, a pot belly, and a perpetual animalistic gaze – so
convincingly and audacious commit himself to a movie role as he has here.
Under a lesser actor’s hands, Dom would have been toxically dislikeable
man within a few opening minutes of the film.
Yet, Law manages to find an impossible happy medium with the
character of presenting him as an all-out lecherous, good-for-nothing goon
and as a subtly sympathetic lout that perhaps has no control over what
happens to him or his foul temper that gets the better of him.
It takes a special type of focused thespian talent to make a such a
unreservedly appalling person miraculously endearing, but just as James
McAvoy did recently in FILTH, Law seems
more than equal to the challenge of the atypically off-centered casting
challenge presented to him.
only wished that DOM HEMINGWAY found an interconnected manner of fusing
all of its core ingredients together to make one successful whole.
The fact that Law is such an engaging lightning rod of fascination
in the film is both a blessing and hindrance.
Shepard is capable of making DOM HEMINGWAY grotesquely hilarious in spite of its ghastly overtones at times, but overall the film
seems to struggle with balancing macabre laughs with soulful character
drama. Then there are
would-be crucial subplots interwoven within the film, like the one
involving Dom’s stressful relationship with his daughter, that only
seems to be hinted at and brought in whenever the screenplay deems it
worthy. Emilia Clarke has
demonstrated herself every week on GAME OF THRONES to be an uncommonly
authoritative and commanding actress, and she’s certainly solid here in
her brief role here, but her limited screen time does both her talents and the
film a glaring disservice.
Still, DOM HEMINGWAY seems more akin to being an insanely watchable highlight reel for Law’s volcanic and rapturous performance…and I’m ultimately okay with that. The film not only fully showcases what an undervalued and resourceful performer he is, but it also emphasizes Shepard as a director that has an empowered hand with crafting a stylish and swift moving film (the vivaciously colorful cinematography by Giles Nuttgens gives DOM HEMINGWAY a playfully whimsical aesthetic backdrop for all of the film’s thugs to congregate in). I may not remember much of what actually transpired in DOM HEMINGWAY, but I’ll certainly never forget Law’s inhumanly coarse underworld gangster. He’s all kinds of crazy good here