‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ seems to be the adage of Dom Hemingway which comes close to falling into the realms of British cockney geeza gangsters cliché. Like Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels though it manages to rise above the norm through snappy dialogue and fun characters.
Dom (Jude Law) is a recently released from prison safecracker. Having served twelve years, for refusing to roll over on his boss, he wants to reconnect with his daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) and make up for lost time. But not before he’s had a drink with buddy Dickie (Richard E. Grant), learned that smoking has been banned in pubs while he’s been away and of course got his compensation from the boss he went away for Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir).
Starting as it means to go on Dom Hemingway opens with the titular character looking into camera and informing us, while having oral sex performed on him by a fellow inmate, how wonderful his penis is. It sets the character up well; he’s brash, arrogant, ignorant and not particularly likable. Furthermore anyone that proud of their penis is probably a bit of one themselves.
But while Dom is far from likeable he is at least entertaining. The dialogue is akin to a Martin McDonagh film but lacking in the natural charm of say In Bruges. So we get plenty of quotable lines and Richard E. Grant bringing a certain amount of Withnail & I levels of dry, hostile delivery.
The issues arise when writer director Richard Shepard, he behind The Matador, realises he might have to find something redeemable about Dom. So the first half is all Dom being a grade A buffoon before Shepard decides to switch tack at the half way point, forgoing much of the banter and humour that has made him tolerable up until this point. He nearly achieves it but you’re left feeling that you’ve seen it done before and much better in the shape of James McAvoy starrer Filth. The parallels between the two films are clear; deplorable protagonists who are a little broken and desperate for a fix, both literal and figuratively speaking. But Filth tapped into it’s protagonists psyche while Dom remains nothing more than a boozing oaf, even when he is seemingly trying to do something right for once.
Dom Hemingway does have a secret weapon up its sleeve in the shape of Jude Law. Since his matinee idol looks, something that he has gone to great lengths here to heighten with a bit of weight gain and unsightly facial hair, Law’s acting credentials have grown in direct proportions. He brings larger than life mannerisms to Dom; a man with a quick temper and self destructive streak akin to an Oliver Reed in his pomp.
Like Dom himself Dom Hemingway is a loud and often alienating film that manages to conjure enough laughs to keep it just the right side of offensive.