It’s an impressive feat for a movie that relies heavily on genuinely shocking shock value, that introduces every new character and starts every scene with loud noises and bright colors, that spends about half its running time in a close-up of Jude Law’s face, to be boring. But congratulations Dom Hemingway, you’ve somehow managed it.
Dom Hemingway is the story of a safe-cracker who has spent the last 12 years in prison. The film opens on Dom in the midst of receiving a prison BJ, giving a lengthy monologue straight to the camera, expounding on the wonder that is his penis. Straight off, Dom is released. We don’t know why, other than that a call (“THE call”) comes in. But we don’t need to know. This is Dom’s story, and he can’t see beyond his own ego, so neither can we. So who cares why he’s released? He just is, so let’s start this story.
Dom returns to his hometown, where his first order of business is finding the man who married his ex, now late, wife and beating the shit out of him. Next up is to reunite with his old friend and partner, Dickie, played by a leathery-faced, one-handed Richard E. Grant, followed by a three-day coke and whore bender. The whole movie feels more like a series of vignettes than a full, cohesive movie. Which is probably why the film is broken up with chapter titles introducing each new mini caper. Other adventures include Trying to Bang the Boss’ Wife, Not Learning Anything From Drunk Driving Experiences, and Half-Heartedly Attempting to Reconcile With Your Daughter. We follow Dom through each chapter, as he drunkenly stumbles from one setting to the next. But it’s a lateral stumble; there’s no real build, just a continuous blind forward progression.
You could argue that the film is broken up into these individual chapters in order to reflect Dom’s own disjointed and self-aggrandized view of the world. But it’s not. It’s because this film just wouldn’t work as one 90 minute story. And for a movie that follows a pretty straight-forward Campbellian (anti-)hero’s journey, it really should be able to progress on its own without the aide of chapter breaks. Does it have wildly entertaining moments (and even long stretches)? Of course. It’s Jude law cockologuing and drinking himself to death, and Richard E. Grant in incredible polyester suits. That’s enough to keep anyone engaged for a couple minutes. And as soon as that grows tiresome and you start to zone out, there’s something to jolt you back into paying attention: a loud noise! Bright colors! Emilia Clarke!
What’s frustrating is that this could be a great story. It could be a movie about a man trying to find himself after spending over a decade in prison, a man coming to terms with how the world has kept moving while he was forced to stand still. At times it tries to be that movie, but it never fully commits, and those vignettes where Dom is trying to make a change or learn a lesson come across half-baked. One of the most honest and moving scenes in the whole thing is the heartbreaking indie music serenade by Dom’s daughter (Emilia Clarke doing her best Mae Whitman). But that scene, and the rest like it, don’t fit into this movie. No, the ones that work best are those in which Jude Law is ranting straight to the camera or Richard E. Grant is being Richard E. Grant, the drunken coked-up madcap ramblings. Those scenes will make you feel like you didn’t completely waste your ten or however many dollars, or your 90 minutes. They’re fun and hilarious and, yes, shocking. But unfortunately for us, that’s about it.
Vivian Kane also didn’t mind the quick glimpse of Jude Law’s giblets, but this is a classy site, so she decided not to mention that.