By Alexia Evripidou
British, brash and ballsy, Dom Hemingway is a fast-talking, crude walking, dark crime comedy. With its quirky humour and excellent (yet often ironically) poetic writing, Dom Hemingway is an immensely entertaining film, most of the time. By ironic, I am referring to the contradictory set up of the protagonist’s violent nature, often offset by his poetic words and conversations, spoken in a brogue London accent. It makes for a wonderful visual and auditory juxtaposition.
Set in London, larger than life Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is a notorious safebreaker who has finally received the long awaited ‘get out of jail free’ call. Liberated, after serving a 12 year jail sentence for safebreaking, Dom goes after his handsome reward which he believes he’s earned for having kept his lips shut all these years. His discretion has helped keep his old boss and underworld Russian kingpin Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir) out of prison, and Dom has ‘bled’ long enough for his money.
Writer-director Richard Shepard opens the Brit gangster flick with a cringingly laugh out loud scene; introducing a sweaty and animated Dom, who is passionately making a long and colourful declamation on the majestic-ness of his manhood. We see him from the waist up, in what appears to be prison; beefed-up and spitting in a soliloquy that’s equal parts Shakespeare and Kray Brothers. Dom, with a childhood dream of being a Shakespearean actor, often talks in verse, describing feelings and thoughts with an elixir of poetry intermixed with cursory abuse.
Wonderfully hot-headed, vulgar, oversexed and egotistical Dom has only three events on his to do list post leaving incarceration. 1- Smash the living daylights out of the man that married and cared for his ex-wife in his absence, 2- elicit what’s owed to him for keeping his silence all those years and 3- reconnect with his daughter who despises him.
The film begins powerfully with the focus on Dom’s journey as he tries to re-build his life, but begins to sag midway. We witness as he single mindedly ‘deals’ with his ex wife’s partner, in the only way Dom knows how to deal with things. His journey then moves to stage two, fuelled with sex, beer, cocaine and his side kick Dicky (Richard E Grant).
Taking a train to France together, Dom nurses a hangover from hell as he prepares to demand his reward from Mr. Fontaine. A hysterical scene commences in Mr. Fontaine’s mansion set in the rolling French landscape, when Dom discovers that Dicky has lost his left hand. “Lefty was right,” says Mr. Fontaine to an oblivious Dom. “Who’s Lefty?” quizzes Dom, and a comical dialogue breaks out between the three men, as Dom, who has been away from social trends for 12 years, wrongly assumed his friend Dicky’s constant wearing of a black leather glove, was due to a fashion statement not a missing hand.
More drugs, hookers and a substantial reward later, the hedonistic party ends in a wild car ride and crash, in the aftermath of which, Dom’s money is stolen by Paolina (Mr. Fontaine’s girlfriend) while Dom’s busy saving the life of the ditzy prostitute, Melody. Unfortunately, both Dom Hemingway himself and the film start getting a little lost shortly after as Dom seems to be searching not just for his life and money but the film’s direction too.
One thing that remains solid throughout the film though, is Law’s impressive acting and characterisation of Dom. Law rocks it like never before; beefed up and fashioning a beer belly rather well and sporting facial hair that would make Wolverine jealous. Dom is a distinct and rich character with intense energy and fabulous lines, and boy does Law deliver them with a punch, often looking directly at the camera with saliva spraying and eyes raging. Not a man one wants to get on the wrong side of.
At last, as an actor, Law has succeeded in breaking away from his usual clean boy image and re-inventing himself as a dedicated character actor. The character Dom is unlike anything he’s done; he truly inhabits the role.
How you react to the film, is completely reliant on how you feel about Dom. You will either love him or hate him. Although Dom is accompanied throughout the film by Dicky and other characters, the film is pretty much Law’s. And although it’s full of excellent and comical banter, especially between Dom and Dicky, unfortunately, like Dom, the film also loses its way a bit.
DIRECTED BY Richard Shepard
STARRING Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir
UK 2013 93mins