Jude Law seems to have figured out how to grow older and keep his career going by mixing it up and always keeping audiences on their toes. In the early days, he played to the advantages of his pretty looks, with roles like the genetically perfect Gerome in Gattaca. Or the socially perfect Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr Ripley. Or the war hero pinup, Vassili in Enemy at the Gates. Even back then, he was willing to go ugly for a part, like in Road to Perdition. Then he seemed to kind of disappear for a while there, popping up again in very serious roles in Soderbergh thrillers Contagion and Side Effects. Most recently, he went back to his charming, terribly British upper crust guy as the young author in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Which makes his other most recent role all the more impressive, jarring and impossible to ignore, as the title character in Dom Hemingway.
Opening your movie with the main character staring directly into camera, delivering a long monologue about the gloriousness of his own ding dong is a pretty audacious way to go. It’s a little over the top and trying a bit too hard, but it also perfectly suits the character of Dom Hemingway and is a great setup for the man we’re about to spend 90 minutes with. Just released from a 12 year stint in jail for robbery and safe cracking, Hemingway’s first step is to brutally beat the man who married his ex-wife and raised his estranged daughter while he was in the can. His second step is to catch up with his old robbery partner, Dickie Black, played by professional delight, Richard E Grant.
Here’s where Dickie delivers the exposition the audience needs to get up to speed. Dom could have been out of jail much sooner if he had informed on his employer, crime lord Mr Fontane (Damien Bichir). So Dom and Dickie are off to France to see Mr Fontane and for Dom to collect his thank you present for keeping his mouth shut. From here, Dom Hemingway is a series of chapters, almost stand alone short stories, as Dom tries to reconnect with his now adult daughter played by Emilia Clarke (AKA, the Kahleesi from Game of Thrones), and tries to reconnect with the new world that’s waiting from him after his 12 years away.
This movie is all Jude Law. His full blown geezer mode borders on going too far, too cartoonish, too over the top. But for me, his constant pushing right to that very edge made him all the more entertaining, Maybe I’m just a sucker for this sort of character, but it reminded me of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, two movies I really love. Only Dom Hemingway is much more grounded, much darker and much more serious. And all of that makes it a much more impressive movie.
It also reminds me the recent James McAvoy movie Filth. Both are built around horrible, desperate, selfish people who will do anything and hurt anyone to get what they want. Both find real humour in utter darkness, and both seem to have been unfairly overlooked. To me, Dom Hemingway and Filth take place in the same universe. The same bleak, brutal universe that I love to see on screen, while hoping it doesn’t really exist in the real world.