Dom Hemingway (2013)

Dom Hemingway (2013)

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Withnail and Hemingway.
Withnail and Hemingway.

Twitter Plot Summary: Dom Hemingway, a safe breaker, emerges from prison and seeks remuneration for not blabbing on his boss.

Five Point Summary:

1. Smoking in a pub?!
2. Random nudity.
3. Slow motion car crash.
4. Meet the daughter.
5. Redemption?

Dom Hemingway is his own worst enemy, a rambunctious safe breaker with a frankly excellent beard who operates on the wrong side of the law. The story picks up with Dom leaving prison after 12 years behind bars, and after quickly catching up with the man who later married his wife and giving him a piece of his mind… and his fist, he heads to France to collect what he’s owed from the crime boss he refused to rat on. When a number of mishaps later occur and Dom ends up having to start from scratch, he encounters his estranged daughter and attempts to work his way back into her life. As you do.

It’s clear as to why Jude Law took the role. Dom is a law unto himself (no pun intended) doing what he wants when he wants, and speaking almost lyrically, his dialogue clearly written to sound like it’s being spoken in Shakespearean verse. Law is ably supported by Richard E Grant as his long suffering friend and plays it as a modern update of Withnail. Their friendship is the highlight of the movie, although sadly there isn’t nearly enough of their fun banter to see it through.

Amidst all the remaining banter, swearing and violence is a story about a man trying to reconnect with his daughter, played by Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, who has since grown up and started a family of her own. Tonally though it’s a helter skelter, varying between the madness that is Dom’s world and reconnecting with the strange new world he has emerged into. This is in part thanks to the episodic style of the script, each twist and turn in Dom’s life being punctuated as chapter points. It’s another style choice that makes Dom Hemingway stand out from other crime capers, albeit one that is as likely to irritate its audience as Dom’s irascible personality.

He's either going to headbutt him, or kiss him.
He’s either going to headbutt him, or kiss him.

Dom is an antique in the criminal world, the shadier types having moved on to more elaborate and more technologically advanced methods in the twelve years he’s been locked away. Had the film been set in an earlier time period then perhaps Dom’s actions would hold more weight. With that said, they are invariably funny and it’s rare for any of the jokes to fall flat. Even an extended exchange of dialogue between Dom and Lestor, the son of a former rival gang leader Dom once had issues with, about the pet cat Dom killed before he was sent down remains amusing despite its macabre content.

There’s a lot of good ideas here, and the slightly uneven plotting fits in nicely with Dom’s method of getting things done, but its anarchic structure and Dom’s inherent appeal can only carry it so far. While Dom remains a delight until his slightly more mellow outlook in the second half, there’s not enough capering and not enough Dom and Dickie. The estranged daughter plot line also doesn’t do the character any favours, and tonally these scenes don’t gel with the rest of the film. Still, it’s moderately enjoyable as it is, and you do at least get to see Dom humping a safe until it opens. You can’t say that about many films.

Score: 3/5

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