Pretty much everyone is going to bring up the opening of Dom Hemingway, and since I am nothing if not unoriginal, I shall do the same. The film opens with Jude Law getting his Bronson on, delivering a lengthy and exuberant soliloquy on the virtues of his penis while, it becomes apparent, someone else is visiting attention on said penis. It’s a memorable opening, for sure, and ends up being the most memorable part of the movie. Much of the rest will be familiar to anyone who’s see enough movies about tough guys being ridiculous.
Dom Hemingway (Law) is a former safecracker who took the fall for a heist gone bad and has spent the last twelve years in prison as a result. Now that he’s out, though, he expects that everything will be smooth sailing. The man he took the rap for, Fontaine (Demian Bichir) is a wealthy gangster willing to reward Dom heavily for his loyalty. So with his best mate Dickie Black (Richard E. Grant) in tow, Dom heads to the crime lord’s country villa for some good times. Unfortunately, things go very badly, and Dom and Dickie find themselves broke. Which means that Dom will have to return to his criminal ways to make ends meet. Also, Emilia Clarke is in there too as Dom’s daughter, with whom he is trying to reconnect. She’s not really important, though. Really, they could have ditched her to no ill effect.
Dom Hemingway feels more like half a movie than a full movie. And not the first half, either, but rather a movie that’s had a significant chunk cut out of it all over the place. It spends a lot of time in various places without quite doing enough to give the audience a feel for them. First it’s prison, then it’s the villa, then it’s the housing complex where Dom crashes in on his daughter. Every plot development seems both stretched and underdeveloped. The first third appears to be setting up things that turn out to go nowhere. Up to a very late point, it seems like the movie could easily still have another full hour left to it (As it is, it’s 90 minutes, which I appreciate. Brevity, wit, etc). The script is untamed and undisciplined, easily its biggest weakness.
Of course, that’s also it’s asset. Or rather, it’s an asset as channeled through Law, who is having a tremendous amount of fun. And he will make you have at least a little bit of fun too, even if he has to grab you by the hair and drag you to it with an insincere grin plastered on his face. Dom Hemingway is an irrepressible drunk, chronically unable to keep himself from saying the exact wrong thing at any given time, and a great lover of smashing property and faces. While most of his past exploits are alluded to rather than depicted, Law’s uncouth braggadocio makes it no trouble at all to believe him capable of mass personal and environmental destruction. And Grant sneaks in a great act as Hemingway’s unflappable foil. This film is a comedy of manners amongst those with few to spare, exemplified in a scene in which Dom learns that Dickie lost a hand while he’s been gone and responds with considerable less tact than he should.
While Dom Hemingway does not add up to much worth remembering, it is a perfectly amicable ride. If I could, I would lift the title character and Dickie Blackman from it and into a better story. But there are worse things than pulling off a nicely-made, self-contained piece of work.
Dom Hemingway is now playing in select theaters and expands April 18th.