Saturday, May 2, 2015

Dom Hemingway: All Style, No Substance.

Movie Review: Dom Hemingway

Director: Richard Shepard

Reviewed: 2 May 2015

jamesintexas rating--**

First of all, I like Jude Law. I like seeing him play the pugnacious, incarcerated, foul-mouthed, and eponymous Dom Hemingway, a small-time safecracker who has just been released from twelve years of prison and is trying to find his way. Law's spitfire soliloquies and confident cadence amplify Dom's lust for life outside of the walls of prison but also reflect a sort of world weariness. Dom's a bit too old for how he dresses, a bit too paunchy to go without his shirt for so long, and a bit too impulsive to fit in the modern world. Dom's also estranged from his daughter whom he left alone with her dying mother at age twelve and also struggling to make sense of what he is owed by fellow gangsters for keeping his mouth shut for twelve years, at obvious great cost to his family.

Second of all, director Richard Shepard is having fun with the storytelling here: punchy title cards as chapter breaks, occasional slow-motion sequences set to booming British tunes, the always wonderful Richard E. Grant playing Dom's be-handed sidekick and fellow gangster Dickie Black; and motor mouthed and intensely foul dialogue spouted out by club-owning underworld characters.

Third of all, Shepard seems to be reveling in the low-rent, less glamorous side of British crime in the vein of Guy Ritchie and others, making sure that we see and smell how depraved and petty this world can be. There are celebrations but coupled with deep hangovers, and Dom's search for himself involves returning to his daughter and finding out who he can become in the future.


Scenes and set pieces go on far too long, and I ultimately felt, even with the fun chapter breaks, the film to be shapeless and a bit bizarre. A steadier hand may have excised some of the plot and some of the meandering, and the last thirty minutes segues deeply into Dom's relationship with his daughter and grandson, though it seems to be more interested in symbolic reconciliation rather than actual character development.

The friendship between Dom and Dickie is left largely unexplored, though Richard E. Grant's thousand-yard stare and yellow-tinted glasses hint at a sordid, silly past of mayhem between the two men. Major violent acts are committed without consequences or repercussions in a world where, seemingly, blood will have blood.

And the film ultimately seems like a series of vignettes and Dom more of a caricature rather than a fully-developed character. No fault of Jude Law's though because Law delivers a swaggering, volcanic performance as Dom, but I wonder if the adventures of Dom Hemingway might have made for a more interesting character study with more time to develop. Perhaps the character deserved a 12 episode run on HBO or a longer film than its scant 93 minute length?

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