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New Release Review - Dom Hemingway

A hoodlum leaves prison after a 12 year stint, hoping to make amends with his daughter.

Directed by: Richard Shepard
Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter, Madalina Diana Ghenea


The titular Dom (Law) leaves prison after 12 years, seething with anger at the world. Immediately, he looks up the man who married his ex-wife (who since died from cancer) and beats him to a pulp. Next, following a three day long whoring and boozing binge, he sets off to the South of France with his former accomplice Dickie (Grant) to collect the money owed to him by Russian mobster Fontaine (Mexican actor Bichir playing the most unconvincing Slav ever) for keeping his silence. Everything goes pear-shaped, however, when Fontaine's Romanian lover Paolina (Ghenea) makes off with the cash following a late-night booze induced car accident. Dom returns to London a broken (and broke) man, and attempts a reconciliation with his now adult daughter (Clarke).
It takes balls of steel for a writer to name their screenplay after its fictional lead character. Here, such an act implies, is a character so fascinating, they're the main reason the film exists. But for every Taxi Driver, Marty or Rocky, there's a Charlie Casanova, an Alex Cross and now a Dom Hemingway.
Richard Shepard's creation isn't a remotely interesting or engaging individual. When we first meet him, he's engaging in a particularly clumsily worded soliloquy about the majesty of his genitalia. We're immediately reminded of the Australian film Chopper, but where Andrew Dominik's dialogue was genuinely lyrical, based as it was on the work of a criminal turned poet, Shepard's (though it may contain a lot of improv on Law's part) is sophomoric. Even Guy Ritchie would demand a rewrite of this. Most of Hemingway's dialogue resembles the sort of essay a 12 year old boy might write in an attempt to shock his English teacher. After ten minutes of this you're praying for the character to meet an end. Spending 90 minutes with Dom Hemingway is like taking a late night bus trip with a drunken stag party, though at least they might offer you a can of beer to numb the pain.
The movie's structure resembles that of the work of Kubrick, in that we get chapters rather than acts and, like Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange, it's split roughly into two halves. On its own, the second half would be quite a sweet and touching film, as Dom attempts to make amends with his estranged daughter. Having witnessed the actions of Dom in the first half, however, it's impossible for us to suddenly get on board with his quest for redemption. How do we expect his daughter to accept him when we earlier watched Dom turn her Stepdad's face into "bolognese"?
As bad as the dialogue and story plotting (not only does Chekhov's gun not get fired, it's not even loaded) are, visually, the film is at times stunning. Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens (whose work can also be seen in this year's What Maisie Knew) uses color in a way we rarely see in British cinema.
Shepard is clearly a talented and cine-literate director but on the evidence of Hemingway he's best off collaborating with a screenwriter in future.
4/10


Eric Hillis

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