Antiheroes definitely have a place in movies. Let's face it,
sometimes screwed-up losers are much more interesting than happy, settled,
However, it can be something of a balancing act. How far can you go
into the dark side without totally losing your audience? How far into
the muck will the film go? Will it be alright to introduce the character
by having him doing a lilting soliloquy to his cock? Will it push the
envelope to show him drunk or high nearly the entire length of the movie?
Will it be going too far to reveal that one of his previous crimes was
killing a housecat?
title character in Dom Hemingway is played in a full-on Guy Ritchie
tough lather by Jude Law. It's a terrific job of creating an almost
completely unlikeable character. Dom is not merely volatile in his
volcanic fits of anger, he often seems either stupid or suicidal. He
gets himself into constant scrapes and danger because he can not filter a
thing he says or does – particularly when he is drunk or high.
disrespects and tells off killers, gangsters, bosses, old friends, jail
guards, women, barkeeps and anyone else who disagrees with him about just
about anything. And then he goes off alone and beats himself up for
having the worst luck in the world.
to Dom: If you don't go out of your way to piss off every single person who
crosses your path, maybe some more good things will come your way.
okay, that is the character we are following. So the question remains,
is the story interesting and empathetic enough that the audience will
overlook the general douchiness of our protagonist?
answer is: Yes, somewhat.
Hemingway is a flawed but mostly interesting entry into the British
gangster genre, and that specific style tends to specialize in explosive
alpha-male types. Writer/director Richard Shepard, the man behind
The Matador, is clever enough to drop his Neanderthal antihero in
the middle of a gently comic and surreal thug life, where most everyone
around him is more understanding of fate's whimsical qualities than Dom ever
the bull in the china shop, mostly harming himself at every turn.
As the press notes diplomatically describes the character, Dom is "a
larger-than-life safecracker with a cocky swagger who is witty, unhinged and
full of piss and vinegar." Other, more powerful men look at him with a certain amount of bemusement.
They realize they should probably just kill him to shut him up, but he is oddly
entertaining to them.
Hemingway opens with the protagonist in jail, finishing up a 12-year
stretch because he refused to sell out his boss, the elegant and vicious
gangster Mr. Fontaine, played with panache by Demian Bechir of A Better
Life and The Bridge. (Bechir is wonderful in the role as
always, but his character, who is supposed to be Russian, seems to have an
accent which skews much closer to Bechir's natural Mexican background than
first thing Dom does out of prison is go beat the crap out of the man who
married Dom's wife after she divorced him in prison – and who nursed the
wife through her fatal bout with cancer and later raised Dom's estranged
daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones) as his own.
Dom finds his best buddy Dickie (Richard E. Grant) at the pub. Dickie
still works for Mr. Fontaine, and under Mr. Fontaine's orders sets up Dom on
his first taste of freedom with two hookers and unlimited drugs for a
weekend blowout. Then Dom and Dickie travel to Mr. Fontaine's French
Riviera villa, where the orgy of alcohol, drugs and women continue nearly
Despite the fact that while stoned out of his mind, Dom wildly disrespects
and offends Mr. Fontaine, the gangster appreciates Dom's loyalty and pays
him well for his time behind bars. However, a mixture of drug use and
a sudden wild twist of fate separates Dom from his money and from future
employment with Fontaine.
Therefore, Dom has to return to London and try to make a living. While
there, he also longs to reconnect with his now-grown daughter Evelyn, but he
is too scared and she shows no interest in getting to know him.
Attempts to reintegrate himself to the underworld also go poorly, leaving
Dom poor, desperate and homeless.
However, Dom Hemingway is not a film of personal redemption, per
se. In fact, right when it seems that Dom is calming down and
learning to appreciate the simpler life of the straight and narrow, fate
tosses him the opportunity to right a past wrong and his worst self
reasserts itself and the guy is back to square one.
Whether the person he avenges himself upon deserves what they get is
debatable, yes and no both at the same time, I suppose. However,
instead of the film's expectation that the audience will enjoy this
comeuppance, I couldn't help but feel disappointed with Dom for his reaction
to the situation. This guy has learned nothing from the people around
him or his experiences. He just can't help himself from being an
asshole, even when he arguably is in the right.
is, I suppose, sort of the point of Dom Hemingway. Some people
are just irredeemable, no matter how hard they try. Like I said at the
beginning of the review, there is a place in the world for an antihero.
Dom Hemingway introduces us to a particularly well-spoken and pithy
one. I wouldn't want to spend time with Dom Hemingway at a pub, but he
is kind of interesting to watch from the safety of a theater seat.
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: July 22, 2014.