“A man with no options has all the options in the world.” Such is the plight of Dom Hemingway, titled after its vulgar, hilarious, loquacious, volatile, criminal protagonist, who is in the middle of a waged war against the universe. The film is a wild ride from start to finish, where literally anything can be said and/or happen.
Dom (Jude Law) has just finished up a 12-year stint in a London prison for refusing to rat out his cronies and boss after what we can only assume was a botched safe heist. Hemingway is a renown safe-cracker, with “magic fingers” and a razor-sharp tongue to go along with it.
He frequently launches into ego-maniacal diatribes that last for minutes on end and are as scarily honest as they are ludicrously hysterical. This narcissism makes Dom deceptively charming, but dangerous as well, as he can go from chugging a pint with his arm around a woman to pummeling the face of a nearby patron who looked at him the wrong way. He’s a conflicted, anger-ridden man, who’s aggressive whimsy barely covers up the unbridled rage he harbors against God and himself. Dom’s wife died of cancer while he was in prison, leaving their young daughter (Emilia Clarke) to fend for herself.
Upon his release from prison, his only real friend and partner-in-crime, Dicky Black (Richard E. Grant), acts as chauffeur for Dom’s drug-and-alcohol-fueled adventure to seek repayment for his silence, redeem himself with his daughter, and re-establish the legacy of the legend known as Dom Hemingway.
This film isn’t for everyone. The story is entirely character-driven, a fast-paced feast of profanity and sexuality, where the titular character is as interesting as he is unlikeable. Jude Law attacks the role with a vigor and depth only rivaled by Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (yes, he’s that good). Law perfectly portrays a man who is truly in love with his own name so much that he cannot see how his actions to preserve his celebrity are actually what’s responsible for ruining everything he ever cared about. But, also like Sexy Beast, fate is a character in Dom Hemingway, where every misfortune is balanced by a stroke of good luck. Dom’s punching bag sidekick is also executed flawlessly. Richard E. Grant makes the viewer pity the more stable but sheepish Dicky Black, much in a Sancho Panza sort of way. Clever writing makes for some great exchanges of one-upmanship between Law and Grant, topped by hilarious, dramatic turnaways straight out of a soap opera. The levity strikes a great equilibrium between the comedy and the more dramatic happenings in the film, which is all due to writer/director Richard Shepard. And in a movie where the plot points can be counted on one hand, interesting characters and great dialogue are a must.
Dom Hemingway is an interesting character study set against a trippy crime adventure story that will intoxicate your senses from start to finish. Its charms won’t work on everyone, but for those that enjoy witty crime thrillers, Dom Hemingway is a can’t-miss.