Dom Hemingway Review

147 - Dom Hemingway - Photo Nick Wall

Staggering through the overwhelmingly serious Oscar hopefuls is the half cut, aggressive, yet poetically comical, bruiser Dom Hemingway. Unlikely to win any awards the typically British gangster picture is welcome light relief in the gravity of the Captain Phillips and 12 Years A Slaves of the theatrical world. The Richard Shepard directed black comedy is far from infallible but nevertheless is a rewarding romp due to Jude Law’s larger than life performance.

Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is a famed safecracker of unparalleled brashness made even crankier by the fact he’s been locked up for 12 years. Finally he gets “the call” and is unleashed upon the poor unsuspecting world, teaming up with his stone faced, suave companion in Dickie (Richard E. Grant) he sets about the task of getting his reward for not ratting on his collaborators in illegal matters. The volatile Hemingway finds bigger problems in his home life, what’s left of it anyway, with a deceased wife and estranged daughter further adding to his tumultuous existence.

Jude Law cuts an unfamiliar figure as lead Dom Hemingway, his famed youthful beauty replaced by an ageing bloated hulk of man sporting a slick back receding hairline along with Nigel Green’s handlebar beard from Zulu. Law’s stereotypical petulant posh boy persona is dismantled the moment Hemingway opens his gob to reveal a shockingly mouthy cockney bastard who has nothing but vulgarities to spit at the camera, his opening spiel about his “amazing cock” that, amongst other traits, should win a noble peace prize a shocking introduction to the 30 pounds heavier Talented Mr Ripley star.

The aggression of Charles Bronson, the mouth of Don Logan and the swagger of Paul Bettany’s Gangster No.1 Dom Hemingway is a pastiche of Britain’s cinematic gangsters yet Law brings enough humour and inimitable character to the role to make sure Dom gets his own place cinematic history.

Like the vitriol filled Bruce Robertson in Filth Dom Hemingway is a foul character of few admirable qualities bar the fact he’s pure entertainment whenever he’s on screen. His rants are frequent and loud, very loud, as well as surprisingly poetic as he likens his hangover to “Cossacks sodomising his cranium”, while other times he resorts to just labelling everyone various levels of being a cunt. Charming.

Hemingway’s foul mouthed monologues are part of a larger loutish script that’s more hit and miss than a drunken back street brawler. Genuinely witty statements are marred by crude and contrived references to Nuns’ dusty nether regions are too laddish to be taken without a wince. Richard E. Grant’s involvement signals better sequences of dialogue, his camp sophistication acts as the perfect foil to Hemingway’s boisterous behaviour, the old chalk and cheese approach paying dividends for director Richard Shepard.


The film is ultimately character driven by Law’s central performance but the erraticly surreal story telling conjures a bizarre world befitting of its larger than life characters in one handed Dickie, sociopath Hemingway and cat loving gangster Lestor (Jumayn Hunte). Surreal moments of dreamy madness litter the film along with a noticeable use of bold neon colours to accentuate the loons’ looney behaviour in their asylum like surroundings. This unorthodox style of direction would be more impactful if it wasn’t for its dilution in British gangster flicks over the last decade, Bronson, filth and Sexy Beast just three users of surreal sequences. In fact the latter’s producer worked on Dom Hemingway, an explanation for its likeness to the 2000 Ray Winstone starring film.

Much like its protagonist Dom Hemingway is cleverer than it looks, spinning a nicely rounded yarn that makes up for a lack of intricacy with real heart and personality. Imperfect but rewarding for its irreverent approach, unfazed by convention or moderation, embodied by Law’s performance, Dom Hemingway is a timely reminder of the joy of the British gangster genre.


7.5/10- Being in Dom Hemingway’s company is an evening well spent.