Jude Law is a very polarizing actor. While talented and charming, there are people that simply despise him and refuse to give him a shot. Law is like an acting version of Coldplay; you either love him or you hate him. There is little in between.
The main reason that people don’t care for Law is because he seems to always be a slick, smooth talking charmer that works his way out of a jam with ease, almost simply with his good looks. In “Dom Hemingway”, Law abandons all vanity. In fact, Law’s Dom Hemingway is one of the most obnoxious, foul mouthed, disgusting characters ever put on film.
But try not to adore him.
While the character Dom Hemingway is a blast to watch, the movie “Dom Hemingway” doesn’t really go anywhere. The story itself is pretty simple. Dom (if you haven’t noticed yet, is played by Jude Law) is released from prison after a 12 year sentence. After leaving prison, his first order of business involves the assault of a man for a fairly insane reason and then Dom proceeds to get loaded with his best friend, Dickie Black (Richard E. Grant).
Dom does all this before speaking with his estranged daughter, Evelyn (Emilia Clarke). Needless to say, Dom does not prioritize very well.
The reason that Dom is in prison is never truly found out, but it becomes clear that he could have avoided prison time if he had rolled over on a lunatic mob boss, Ivan Fontaine (Demian Bichir). After a few nights of debauchery, Dom and Dickie are invited to Mr. Fontaine’s French villa, where Dom expects to be handsomely rewarded for his loyalty.
There’s not much more to it. “Dom Hemingway” is nothing more than a series of events that allow Law to showcase the wonderfully abrasive character that is Dom Hemingway. There are some basic plot advancements, but it’s done more to put Dom in horrible situations as opposed to moving from point A to point B.
The director and screenwriter, Richard Shepard, is very familiar with this type of material. He also wrote the very underrated “The Matador”, which featured Pierce Brosnan in a similarly slimy, yet likable role. There are some very clever scenes that show off Shepard’s direction, but the real gold is the dialogue. Shepard uses curses words very much like David Mamet in that, at some point, they become poetic.
But Shepard seems to know what works for him and he focuses solely on those things. He creeps up on a few seemingly heartfelt moments that he immediately tears down with Dom’s abrasiveness. Shepard doesn’t let the movie go full Hollywood and wrap everything up with a cute little bow. There isn’t any indication that things are going to eventually take a sudden positive turn for Dom, which would only make the movie seem cheap and going for an easy ending.
There are several brilliant performances in this movie and considering it’s a dialogue heavy movie, it needs it. Richard E. Grant gets to be the straight man for almost all of Dom’s crazed, manic rants and his timing and reactions are impeccable. Grant is part of one of the funniest sight gags in recent movie history and his shock and outrage during it are riotous.
For about the first five minutes of “Dom Hemingway”, Jude Law delivers an impassioned soliloquy. The subject of his tale would be Dom’s private parts. It is half insanity and half genius. It is also just the beginning of the bombastic screen explosion that Law delivers.
This is a career defining and perhaps altering performance for Law. Everything about Dom Hemingway abandons the typecast predictability that Law usually brings to a movie. His hairline is brutally revealing, his gut is punchy, and his clothes seemingly never, ever fit. Throw in a horrible crown on one of his incisors and any and all glamour and good looks are gone.
Once you get over the overall appearance of Law, he speaks. Then he keeps speaking. Then he speaks more. He repeatedly refers to himself by using his full name. He verbally abuses everyone, but because his insults are so perfectly funny, it makes it all seem harmless when in fact, Dom is a violent maniac.
“Dom Hemingway” won’t make much noise at the box office and it’s not the type of indie movie that will win a boatload of awards. It is a movie that moves by very quickly and seems shorter than its already short 93 minute run time. It is solely worth watching if only for Jude Law’s amazing performance in which he seems to revel in destroying the Jude Law most audiences are used to seeing.