Dom Hemingway (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Dom Hemingway (2014)

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In exchange for protecting his old partners in crime, safe-cracker Dom Hemingway seeks reparations for his time in prison.  Teaming up with his old partner Dickie, Dom sets out to prove that he hasn't lost the magic touch.  Dom Hemingway is directed by Richard Shepard, whose previous films include The Matador and The Hunting Party.

Not wasting any time for this guyDom Hemingway is the second film to come out this year featuring a cantankerous, foul-mouthed, aggressive protagonist in a morally murky situation caused by his attitude and previous actions.  The distinction is important because the first, Filth, was a chore of a film created with a teenager's dull wit.   Contrasted with that garbage, Dom Hemingway is damn near a masterpiece, featuring lively work from Jude Law as the titular Dom.

Law's performance as Dom is so immediately captivating that the opening scene is a a masterpiece of lowbrow comedy.  He's a man who has no illusions about himself, and spread out against a spare wall in a Jesus Christ pose, Dom delivers a borderline genius spiel about the majesty of his penis.  It's a tricky bit of writing and delivery, because as Dom began his rant I was suspicious about his boasting.  Yet Dom continues on, finding different ways to praise his appendage, and by the time it morphed into a cheetah which won the Nobel Prize I lost my composure.  Then one of his fellow prisoners gets up and, as he's wiping his mouth, Dom apologizes for springing that last surprise on him so soon.

Jude Law's hilarious performance is enhanced by a dry visual wit from Richard

Rich Shepard's dry visual with enhances Jude Law's hilarious performance in many moments.

That bit of humility is what gives Dom a touch of class in his otherwise disastrous exterior.  He's not an unsung saint, working among the damned to try and raise them in their station.  But he's  someone with a sense of honor, sticks by his friends, and seeks vengeance only against those who have done him wrong.  As written by Richard Shepard, and performed by Law, Dom is a great character as he's always at odds with his surroundings in some way.  Either he's too much of a stickler to his code to mesh with the gangsters, or he's busy overcompensating for his lapses of kindness against people who don't exactly deserve it.  Law hits all the layers of wonderfully, hilariously manic when caught in pleasure, and somewhere between a psychotic break and utter despair when he's at his lowest end.

Dom's sensitive side is something of a blessing and a curse for Dom Hemingway though.  It is the source of an affecting and surprisingly sweet subplot between Dom and a woman who believes in good so unerringly that she feels shipped in from a rags to riches Hollywood tale.  Their story nearly transforms the film into something grander, an unusual tale of rare connections and love that saves two weirdos.  But where Shepard gets Dom so perfectly, the scenario he wrote is a bit lacking as Dom is put through a redemption plot where he is trying to redeem himself with his crew with one last job and prove his worthiness to his estranged daughter.  Save Law's performance - everything involving the daughter is pure done to death tripe that Shepard finds nothing new to say or do about.

The dramatic elements of Dom Hemingway drag the fun, unusual chemistry out of the film.

The dramatic elements of Dom Hemingway drag the fun and unusual chemistry out of the film.

The narrative grinds to a total halt when Dom or his daughter are playing out their reconciliation, which also suspends some wonderfully deadpan direction from Shepard.  When Dom is gallivanting around with his crew Shepard typically films them in flat, spacious environments with one color dominating the frame.  This underscores their pathetic lifestyles, and when things really do go wrong, like when Dom is flung from his friends after a car crash, physics is suspended just long enough to show how pitiful they look flying through the air.

Overall, Dom Hemingway gets an unusual rating from me.  Law's performance, the dry wit of the direction, and occasional zinger in the dialogue ("He was raised in a well-stocked orphanage and kills people for a living.  Of course he has a well-stocked bar") doesn't counteract the too-familiar reconciliation subplot and moments of unfunny banter which pad the film.  With those reservations, I am still recommending Dom Hemingway.  It hints at a side of Jude Law that is capable of hilarious darkness, and that Richard Shepard has great ideas for characters that don't always pan out in the screenplay.  A conflicted but interesting film is better than wasting your time with total dreck.

Remember the name, Dom Hemingway.  Not Filth.

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Tail - Dom HemingwayDom Hemingway (2014)

Screenplay written and directed by Richard Shepard.
Starring Jude Law.

Posted by Andrew

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