Dom Hemingway

...struggles to establish a sense of belonging despite the amusing performances of its two main characters.

Blurring the line between comedy and crime, Dom Hemingway is a British noir dramedy that relies heavily on verbose monologues that are both Shakespearian and profane. Although the film is filled with style, wit and ghoulish fun, it struggles to establish a sense of belonging and ultimately remains in the shadow of the all superior Bronson.

Written a directed by Sam Shepard (The Matador), Jude Law steps out of his comfort zone to play the titular criminal – a professional safe cracker back on the streets of London, after being put away for a long time. As a violent, fearless, hardened criminal sporting mutton chops, Dom has ethics and this is why he did twelve years in prison without so much as uttering a single word. For keeping his mouth shut, it is now time to collect and make up for years lost in prison. His reward waits in the South of France but on the way to claim his dues, Dom, along with his former accomplice and best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant), compensate for 12 years of abstinence with promiscuity fuelled with drugs and alcohol. All the fun hits the fan when Dom realizes that he is also a father and sets about to regain the love of his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke), who by now has a son of her own.

This is also where the film shifts tracks (and pace) when Dom realizes that while in prison, the world has moved on without him. Unwilling to let go of the few things he is proud of (including his name as the greatest safe cracker there is) Dom is faced with new challenges as a criminal, besides a growing moral dilemma about who he wants to be as a person. Law’s portrayal of a drunken dictionary and a satirical Shakespearean is excellent and as entertaining as the method to his character’s madness. Permeating through his character’s hardened exterior and subtle beer belly is Law’s unmistakable charisma. And although this is masked with extensive vulgarity, it works as a bizarre allure that draws you in. But even as we give in to Law’s charm, Grant steals the show with contrast and balance and becomes an effective mechanism for humor. Having known Dom for years, Dickie’s facial expressions are priceless in indicating exactly how his partner will react to any situation. Dickie also has a gloved hand. Watch this carefully as it becomes the source of a few jokes, one of which had my stomach in cramps.

Shepard’s narrative pans out in six chapters but don’t expect it to develop like a Quentin Tarantino film. In fact, the film does have stylized moments akin to Guy Ritchie’s Snatch but becomes overly self-indulgent and obnoxious. Then, somewhere between Chapter 4: Father of the year and Chapter 6: Options, the narrative begins to loose depth by pandering grand themes of redemption. By now the film has already crossed a premature and mid-point climax, but carries on limp, towards one last attempt at arousal from a somewhat irresistible reconciliation in the end.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.