Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) spent 12 years in prison, keeping his mouth shut about others involved in a safe-cracking heist. He emerges for the slammer and wants to get back what is his from those he protected in “Dom Hemingway.”
I have always liked Jude Law but I did not expect such a quirky, funny and foul mouthed performance of a man quite full of himself and his strengths as he tries to get back what was once his. Dom, with his mutton chop side burns and wicked widow’s peak, is all bluster, using the f-word as noun, verb, adjective and adverb with his rapid fire verbal abuse. But, there is a core of uncertainty to the man as he gets it all back but loses it all just as quickly.
A drama about criminals, thievery and deception would have some crime going on one would think, but not here. Instead, writer/directors Richard Shepard and his cast embrace the characters and their stories, giving dimension to the world revolving around Dom Hemingway. Richard E. Grant, as his sidekick and best friend, one-handed Dickie Black is droll and amusing, always looking out for his volatile best mate. Demian Bichir, as Ivan Fontaine, is the Mr. Big that Dom protected, by his silence, for all these years, Fontaine’s sexy mistress, Paolina (Madalina Diana Ghenea), though, will prove to be Dom’s great downfall.
Dom has another back story that unfolds as he tries to get what is his. He was married before he went to prison and, because of his devotion to his crime boss and long years in prison, lost his wife to cancer and was not there for her. He also left behind a daughter, Evelyn (Emilia Clarke), who has estranged herself from Dom. Director Shepard weaves this back story into the film’s fabric seamlessly and, in doing so, gives Dom dimension.
There may be some slow points but “Dom Hemingway” is fun in a darkly cynical way as Dom experiences the fluctuations of life as he tries to get back what he once had – especially the daughter who has shut him out from her life. It is, in the end, the story about one man’s redemption. I give it a B.
A safecracker with 'magic fingers' is first seen giving a hearty and profane direct address soliloquy about his male member as he's serviced in his jail cell. When he learns he's getting out after 12 years, he has three goals - to beat the man who married his ex, make up for lost time with the opposite sex and get his due from the crime boss he served time for. But things don't quite go as planned for "Dom Hemingway."
Writer/director Richard Shepard ("The Matador") has crafted an outrageously funny character which Jude Law takes and runs with. With his widow's peak, mutton chops, bad teeth, facial scar and outdated fashion sense, Law's Dom is like a cross between the sputtering Cockney rage of Ben Kingsley's Don Logan and the legend in his own mind of Tom Hardy's Bronson. But Shepard's built in a vulnerability for Hemingway's redemption - his estranged daughter Evelyn ('Game of Thrones's' Emilia Clarke) and the grandson, Jawara, Dom doesn't know he has.
Dom's partner in crime, Dickie (Richard E. Grant), is almost his polar opposite (its hilarious when Dom learns his friend lost his hand and isn't just making a fashion statement with his one black glove). It's Dickie who tries to shepherd Dom through an East London that's left him behind, both appalled by Dom's violent disregard for protocol and amused by his bravado. Presented with two hookers and a pile of blow, Dom tells no one to bother him for three days, then tells Dickie he's 'f*&%*ed himself to death.' They're on their way to the South of France to see Mr. Fontaine (Damien Bichir, "A Better Life") and although Dom's impressed by his vast estate, he decides he wants the man's girlfriend. Not a good idea, nor is his belittling temper tantrum demanding cash and a 'present,' his already consumed orgy deemed a mere 'amuse bouche.' After sobering up, Dom's terrified, but Dickie brings him around, he's forgiven and given $750 British pounds. A celebration (with a serving of humble pie) ensues, but a horrific accident changes everything in a flash.
Penniless, Dom returns to London and goes begging to both his daughter, whose husband Hugh (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) takes some amount of pity on him, and the son of a former foe, Lestor (Jumayne Hunter, "Attack the Block") who decidedly does not. A bet that could cost him his manhood and a gamble to win back his fatherhood see Dom playing all in.
Law conjures a somewhat dim man who yet has quite the way with words, a hair trigger guy who might cry or bite your face off at any given moment. It's a balls to the wall performance and utterly entertaining. In addition to Grant, notable support comes from Clarke (who sings in a lovely club act that moves Dom to tears) and Kerry Condon as Melody, the party girl whose fate proves something of a Guardian angel. The film's other central character though, is its production design/art direction, (Laurence Dorman, "Young Adam;" Bill Crutcher, "Byzantium") which pits Dom, Fontaine and Dickie in a room defined by its three oversized Jill Greenberg monkey portraits and which paints a whole new picture of Dickie once we get a glimpse of his house. Dom's tense showdown with Lestor is backgrounded by a projection of topless twins playing ping pong. The film is also paired with a great soundtrack featuring Jacques Brel, Big Country and The Pixies's 'Debaser.'
"Dom Hemingway" has clearly been influenced by many, often far better, films, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.
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