Jude Law has taken to the role of mostly unlovable long-term criminal with extreme gusto and obvious enjoyment, and for the most part he takes the audience along with him as Dom Hemingway stomps and swerves its way through the underworld and some of its (upper) branches. Directed by Richard Shepard, the film stars Law as Dom the violent and vulgar safe-cracker and Richard E. Grant as his henchman Dickie, a much more restrained presence and a perfect foil for Dom’s blustering low-life persona.
Having spent 12 years in a London prison for not fingering his boss, Dom is getting out and he’s intent on collecting a reward for his loyalty. Joined by Dickie he embarks on a series of escapades that are infused with black comedy and often utterly obnoxious behavior..
Some of the most telling action takes place at a luxurious estate in the south of France, where Dom’s former boss, a Mr. Fontaine (played with style by Demian Bichir) resides. Dom’s run of bad luck (and admittedly bad karma) leads him into a lot of rough territory, but after a near-death experience the boisterous bad-ass attempts a reconciliation with his long-estranged daughter Evelyn.
Evelyn, as portrayed by Emilia Clarke, provides just about the only soft spots in the movie – soft as in touching and quite believable in terms of ‘real’ people. Richard Grant provides welcome relief from Jude Law’s impressive, repulsive, overwhelming – but nuanced – character and the two make a pretty good job of balancing headlong foolishness with morose meditation.
Dom Hemingway is also a pretty good combination of American director/screenwriter Richard Shepard and British child of the London streets Jude Law. Shepard says he has always been enamoured of British gangster movies, and Law says he felt liberated by the change from his usual good guy roles.
Law, who has two Oscar nominations for roles completely opposite his Hemingway character, has definitely deviated from his former image and enjoyed the experience a helluva lot.
The film gives him plenty of leeway, for sure. As the profane, occasionally poetic, and morally ambiguous character of Dom, almost his first act after release from prison it to go beat up the guy his ex-wife married. Then he can ramble along with the plot as he demonstrates his virility and disgusts the upper class at every opportunity – but that’s not all he’s about. The latter half of the movie begins to reveal a character who does have depth, and sensibilities, and questions himself for the first time.
Overall, this film is for a mature audience; some will find it offensive, some will find it hilarious and most will probably find it both.