Released from a prison after a 12-year stretch, Dom Hemingway tells the story of our eponymous character (Jude Law) as he attempts to reconcile both his business and personal affairs. Law swaggers and swears his way through the movie in what proves to be an enjoyable if ultimately uninspiring picture.
The film opens with Dom, mutton chops et al, giving us a poetic soliloquy about the majesty of his manhood – an appendage which goes on to be the subject of multiple plot points throughout the film. This initial introduction to Dom sets the tone for the rest of the film – much like Tom Hardy’s Bronson, Hemingway comes across as a total thug complete with a Millwall FC tattoo on his bicep, but also has a certain eloquence with his words which suggests that there’s an intelligent mind lurking behind the facade.
Unlike Bronson however, Dom Hemingway comes across as a slightly more world-weary and sad character. He does his best to try and pick up where he left off, indulging in a sordid 3-night affair with hookers, booze and blow, but 12 years behind bars have clearly taken their toll, and as the film rolls forward there’s an ever increasing battle between the boy Dom used to be and the man that he needs to be.
This role seems to be a perfect fit for Jude Law who, now that he’s slightly older, can start to leave behind the pretty-boy parts he used to be known for in favour of characters with a bit more personality. Law certainly delivers in one of the best performances of his career, and the kind of role which I hope to see more of in the future. However, despite how well the role is portrayed, Dom still lacks a little depth owing largely to a weak final third, where all bravado and interest go out the window in favour of a generic lacklustre finish.
Dom Hemingway is split into vague chapters, complete with humourous, Tarantino-style title cards to announce each one. Initially we follow Dom as he goes about reintroducing himself to the people he left behind, both favourably and unfavourably. These early scenes are simultaneously horrendously violent and farcically funny and this trait continues throughout as Dom Hemingway skilfully walks the line between brutality and comedy.
As the story progresses, we’re introduced to Richard E. Grant who acts as Dom’s only real friend, and also his enabler. While Grant has criminally little to do, Dickie is nevertheless incredibly important as he very often fulfills the role of connecting the audience to the story where we may otherwise be left feeling alienated.
From here, Dom and Dickie endeavour to visit a questionably trustworthy mob boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demián Bichir), who had been the mastermind of the job that put Dom away. Dom believes that he’s owed some compensation for the time that he’s done and the silence he’s kept.
Initially, he goes about things in his typically overly-dramatic way and is a substantial threat to his own safety as well as those who keep his company. This reunion of sorts culminates in a wonderfully stylised car crash which embodies all that’s best with this film – disgracefully graphic while maintaining its black comedy overtones. These kinds of scenes would threaten to be ill-conceived in similar movies but owing to the work done early on in the film, and also by virtue of the chapter title cards, we’re taken on what feels like a tale being told of the mythology of Dom Hemingway, rather than a factually accurate depiction of events. This is vital if you’re to enjoy the film, as you have to embrace and enjoy all of the hyperbolic and fantastical aspects of the tale while forgiving the illogical and unrealistic leaps which the story takes at times.
Unfortunately, once Dom and Dickie return to London after this little excursion to St. Tropez, the film begins to drop away slightly. We’re introduced to Dom’s daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) and soon learn that she’s moved on with her life in the absence of her father and predictably Dom then endeavours to try and mend the relationship.
This strand grounds the film in some sense of reality but it really doesn’t need it, attempting to force some humanity into Dom’s character, an aspect which I feel would be best left more ambiguous. It may have worked if this was used as a side-plot to the audacious and ridiculousness main event but it starts to take too much of a priority and while it doesn’t make this a bad film, it certainly prevents it from becoming a great film.
All in all, Dom Hemingway film is still successful and is littered with good performances. There are moments of laugh out loud comedy mixed in with grim scenes of graphic violence, all punctuated by some of the most fantastically sweary tirades you’re likely to hear this year. The script is smart and sharp and romps along, the cinematography is neat and stylish and the direction is solid throughout. However, I feel that there’s a lack of conviction towards the end which might hold it back from becoming a box office hit, or a cult classic. It’s still enjoyable and hopef ully will lay some groundwork for Jude Law to be propelled into some grittier roles in the future, but ultimately falls just short of the greatness which it’s so close to grasping.