Overcooked and extremely verbose, Dom Hemingway is stylistic fun.
"A man with no options suddenly has all the options in the world", says the chain-smoking, whiskey-muddled, and articulate but filthy Dom Hemingway. Proclaimed the greatest safe-cracker of the ages, Dom Hemingway (Jude Law, Closer) is back on the streets after twelve years of solitude (twelve years is a running theme of 2013, it seems). His daughter grown up, his partner without his left hand, and in dire need of his earnings, he pursues his criminal associates (a twirly moustache Frenchman, surprise) in search of his deserved reward. Verbose and foul, Dom is a walking thesaurus, a drunken Shakespearean, using more words in a sentence than one should in a lifetime – for example, the opening sequence is a two-and-a-half minute monologue about his cock. That about sums up Dom Hemingway, an enjoyable albeit shallow dark comedy.
A watered down Bronson, a film of similar premise, Dom Hemingway is delightfully dark, similar to his psyche – he is disgusting, filthy, violent and loud, but he retains an iota of charm, one of the few things dragging the film along. Bearing numerous similarities to Refn's prisoner character study, Dom Hemingway is truly a visual feast: the pumping nightlife of downtown London is full of colour and life. The screen is constantly full of greens and yellows, reds and pinks – it isn't dull to look at. While it isn't as intrusive and cerebral as Refn's terrifying glimpse into the mind of a madman, Dom Hemingway and Bronson share two familiar traits: a strong cockney accent and a loud mouth.
While they may retain similarities, they are largely superficial – I must apologise for my comparison of the two, they are different films, but it fluently highlights Dom Hemingway's numerous flaws. Dom's charisma simply doesn't compare to that of Bronson's, from the way he carries himself to the way he walks through the streets and alleys. While the loud and ostentatious Bronson was an addict to attention, Dom slinks into the shadows the way he slinks into a chair; sleazy and slouched. When opportune, he indulges in delightful monologue, Shakespearean in his formidable vocabulary, but it all tastes a slight bit overdone. The script, like Hemingway himself, is largely self-indulgent and masturbatory, and is surely tiresome.
Ignoring the occasionally obnoxious monologue, Dom powerfully commands the screen, even if his persona is quite the opposite. Separated from his cigarettes and whiskey for twelve years, he takes great pleasure in his intoxicated over-indulgement. For example, over three days Dom compensates for twelve years of seclusion with alcohol, drugs and prostitutes – but it doesn't really work, he just ends up very hungover indeed. Such is the life of Dom Hemingway, fuelled by toxicants and greed, when there really are better things to do – reconnect with his long-since abandoned daughter perhaps. Dom's antithesis, his daughter Evelyn (Emelia Clarke, Game of Thrones), is a force to be reckoned with; the opposite of her father's boisterous exterior, she is instead quiet and passive. Contrasting the pounding nightclubs of London, she sings in a country club, her voice soft and soothing compared to her father's loose and loud tongue.
Unfortunately, Dom Hemingway has little punch. The first act is incredibly enjoyable, but act by act, its quality subsides. Fast paced exposition, into an extremely average midpoint, into an abysmal climax (I must admit I enjoyed the final scene), it grew less and less entertaining. Dom Hemingway forgot what it set out to be – its foul-mouthed, violent charm was abducted and replaced by a crowd-pleasing father-daughter subplot. It was unnecessary, contrived, and clichéd. The obnoxious American's shoehorned exposition was similarly sloppy, revealing the (already obvious) moral of the story in last-minute exposition – it became extremely unnecessary and artificial.
Jude Law performs excellently, as does the majority of the cast, yet Hemingway's left-hand-less right-hand man Dickie (Richard E. Grant, The Corpse Bride) completely steals the show, injecting wit and energy into every scene, contrasting Hemingway's rambunctious bluntness. Unfortunately, it isn't enough to elevate Dom Hemingway's paradoxically undercooked-while-overcooked dialogue. With an over-emphasis on Hemingway's verbose monologue and an under-emphasis on every else, Dom Hemingway is a superficial, attractive, generally fun film with little depth – I'm sure no one would be bothered if they saw this as a rental, but I wouldn't suggest going out of your way for it.
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