Directed by: Richard Shepard.
Written by: Richard Shepard.
Starring: Jude Law (Dom Hemingway), Richard E. Grant (Dickie Black), Madalina Diana Ghenea (Paolina), Demian Bichir (Mr. Fontaine), Kerry Condon (Melody), Emilia Clarke (Evelyn), Jumayn Hunter (Lestor).
When we first meet Dom Hemingway, he’s getting a blowjob in prison, as he delivers a monologue about how legendary both he and his cock are. It is a profane and brilliant moment, that the movie doesn’t really come close to matching for the rest of its running time, but it’s an honest opening sequence for the movie. If you’re offended by that, you may as well leave, because the movie will essentially be one profane scene after another. The movie has a plot, but it feels like it’s an excuse to let Jude Law, who plays Hemingway in a fine performance, deliver one offensive line after another. Law is the only reason to see the film, which doesn’t attempt to do anything you haven’t seen in dozens of other British gangster movies. It’s fun to watch Law cut loose – but eventually, even that gets a little tiresome.
Dom has just spent 12 years in prison for his part in a robbery. He could have only gone away for a year or two, but he refused to name names – which has earned him a debt from Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir) – who has become incredibly wealthy while Dom rotted away. Fontaine plans on paying Dom for his loyalty. But the 12 years in jail cost Dom more than his freedom – his wife divorced him, remarried and died while he was on the inside. His daughter, Evelyn (Emila Clarke) hates his guts and wants nothing to do with him. Dom eventually comes out of jail with nothing but a friendship with Dickie (Richard E. Grant) – but even that doesn’t seem overly close. We’re about half way through the movie before Dom even notices Dickie has lost a hand.
Law fully commits to his performance as Dom. He gained weight, grew some ridiculous muttonchops, affects a lower class accent, and basically performs the whole movie full of false bravado. He is insecure underneath all that posturing, but he doesn’t want anyone to know that. For the most part, he drinks, he smokes, and he beats people up, he swears, and basically acts like an asshole. And Law nails the performance. Unfortunately, there just isn’t anything else in the movie worthy of Law’s performance.
The film was written and directed by Richard Shepard, who has made some decent movies in his career – the little seen serial killer film Oxygen with Adrien Brody and Maura Tierny, the hitman-businessman friendship of The Matador (2005) and the journalists in a war zone film The Hunting Party (2008) – which all worked better than this film. Perhaps the difference is that in those films, he made multiple interesting characters to make up for his lack of interest in a plot. In Dom Hemingway, Law really is the whole show.
It’s an admirable effort on Law’s part, and the movie is never really boring, and he is always interesting to watch. But at the end, you wonder what all the effort really adds up. The whole film feels like its setting something up, that the film never really delivers. It’s worth seeing for Law – just don’t expect there to be anything else in the film worthy of your attention.