Review: Dom Hemingway
It’s an opening scene and telling introduction that few other actors could pull off. A mix of absurd poetry and passionate disillusionment, Jude Law recites what may safely be titled, ‘Pledge Allegiance to My Penis,’ a metaphor-laden ode, while an unseen associate, well, pledges allegiance.
This intimate, lengthy proclamation, sweaty and utterly captivating, is indicative of the rest of the darkly comic film to come: funny, odd, adult, and a little uncomfortable. Law is Dom Hemingway, an in this scene he boasts about Dom Hemingway, something he does with great frequency. It’s unclear whether he is enjoying himself more because of what is being done to him or what he is saying; the experience also has an abrupt ending, and surely involved lowering expectations – sort of like this film on whole.
We also get a pretty good idea of who Dom Hemingway really is in this scene. While loud, literary, and sex-crazed, we later learn he has anger issues and more loyalty for his crime partners than he does his family. That introduction takes place in prison, and Dom is finally on his way out after serving 12 years and refusing to give up names in order to get out early.
Without a modicum of humility or care, Dom sets out to get what is owed to him. That is, of course, after paying a visit to the man who ended up with his wife in a moment that goes from funny to awkward to uncomfortable in about 10 seconds (this is a recurring theme). And also after having many a pint at a bar and spending a couple days with a pair of paid escorts.
With his buddy Dickie Black, who seems stuck in another decade but maybe the only person who can calm Dom, the pair head to meet a wealthy crime boss (Demian Bichir, who has this role so down) in his beautiful villa in order to get a vast sum of back pay. Dom can’t help himself though. He gets drunk, he threatens people, he hits on women with whom he shouldn’t be flirting, and he trusts people he shouldn’t trust.
In all, he makes some terrible decisions, that range from hysterical to disturbing. He’s simultaneous sympatric and annoying, a man and a man-child, and a pompous pontificator that isn’t really trying to persuade anyone but himself. And if only he would get out of his own way, maybe his life would turn out better.
In addition to a very large sum of money, Dom is also interested in getting back his family – his daughter, to be exact, of whom he has been estranged and seen as a deserter. He also maybe wants a job, he’s a master safe cracker too after all. How Dom prioritizes these desires is more fluid and questionable than they should be, but the money chase is funnier and entertaining, while the daughter narrative is a bit more trite and predictable.
Evelyn (Emilia Clarke, not commanding dragons) takes Dom in reluctantly after he gets into more trouble, and the plot of the film shifts, but the edgy, wild tone and the themes stay the same. Sharply written and directed by Richard Shepard, Dom Hemingway does absurdity better than the sentimental, with entertaining parts that sadly don’t amount to much of anything whole.