Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content, Nudity, Pervasive Language, some Violence and Drug Use
Directed by: Richard Shepard
Written by: Richard Shepard
Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter, Madalina Diana Ghenea & Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
DOM HEMINGWAY tries to be fun. God bless it, because it tries so very hard to nail a certain style in the same vein of Guy Ritchie’s best work. However, it’s not anywhere near that level of skill when mixing crime, comedy and drama into one singular film. It’s safe to say that DOM HEMINGWAY feels like three distinctly different movie genres wrapped up in the space of 93 minutes, but none of them are done particularly well. The biggest problem with DOM is that it never knows exactly what it wants to be and winds up as a unfocused mess.
Dom Hemingway is a safe cracker who’s spent the last 12 years of his life locked up in prison. Being released after all that time, Dom finds himself making up for his wasted period of life by trying to live it up. He asks for a reward in favor of not snitching in prison (which would have cut his time significantly) and finds that the world isn’t kind to him. Bad luck follows this former criminal wherever he goes. This includes trying to mend a shattered relationship with his estranged daughter and getting revenge on his former nemesis.
One thing becomes very clear while watching DOM: Jude Law is having a blast as the title character. He’s a smartass who dishes out plenty of quick-witted insults and comebacks. He’s a funny guy and frequently entertaining to watch. The film suffers from throwing Dom into scenarios where he’s forced to show serious emotion (which just doesn’t work in his character) and every side performer (as colorful as they might be) falls by the wayside as Law parades around in many different scenes that don’t fit well together.
One thing that I really dug about DOM HEMINGWAY was its style. Director/writer Richard Shepard may have been overly confident in a lot of ways, because the story really is a jumbled combination of three entirely separate ideas that could take up features on their own. The cinematography is gorgeous and the London night life (seen later on in the film) is brought to life with lots of colors and extravagant lighting. A comical night club, in which one of the film’s better sequences takes place, looks like “a brothel by the way of Elton John” (as Dom lovingly describes it). It’s little touches like this that actually made me enjoy this movie more than I might have otherwise. Title cards popping up every 10 minutes seemed desperate in a “we want to desperately be a Wes Anderson movie” sort of way. DOM is definitely a style over substance film, but that style can put tasty icing on a rather bland cake.
As far as the actual storytelling goes, the pacing is sluggish and the script feels like a rough draft of sketched premises. As mentioned before, there are three different movies here and none of them blend well together. Dom gets out of prison, but also tries to make amends with his daughter and grandchild, and also tries to get revenge on a nemesis in a creative way. I am aware that was a run-on sentence, but the plot of the movie feels like a run-on sentence. It’s a mess, but it can be entertaining in small moments. There are a couple of noteworthy great scenes that work purely based on Law’s giddy performance as Dom. Otherwise, the movie is disjointed and disappointing.
DOM HEMINGWAY is more focused on Jude Law going crazy as the title character and rocking its own style than in telling an actual story with real quality behind it. The experience is a hollow one as a whole. The jumbled mess of a story is really what sinks this movie to being subpar. It’s almost like there could have been a DOM HEMINGWAY trilogy, but all three screenplays got combined into one feature just in case it didn’t pan out. Just like the title character, this movie is overly confident in its own style and preaches that it’s far better than it actually is.