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The Great Train Robbery

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Dom Hemingway isn’t everybody’s cup of tea or pint of bitter, but it does offer plenty of laughs for fans of humor that runs vulgar and vicious.

Safecracker

Jude Law is Dom Hemingway
Jude Law is Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes) is a total asshole. He’s vulgar. He’s self-impressed. He’s a nudist dinosaur bigot nutter with a drinking problem and anger management issues. And he’s spent the past 12 years in prison, where he’s whiled away some of the time trying all sorts of therapy to overcome his anger. The rest of the time he’s offered vivid, stirring soliloquies about his manhood.

Yeah. He’s a bad guy. Unsympathetic. While he was locked up, his wife had an affair with one of Dom’s best friends before she died of cancer; another friend lost his left hand; a Russian mob boss now has an elegant French estate and a knock-out wife; and Dom’s daughter, now 21, has a son and she wants nothing to do with Dom.

None of that matters, though. Dom is a resolute and intransigent SOB.

In addition to being a professional bastard, Dom’s a professional safecracker whose nimble fingers are the stuff of legend.

Because he refused to snitch during his trial, Dom wound up serving 12 years instead of negotiating down to three or four. It seems as though every time Dom tries to play by the rules, he loses. And things don’t go much better when he breaks the rules.

Firecracker

Dom Hemingway is in the vein of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, as well as Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. There’s wit in the vulgarity and dark humor in the violence.

Yes, Dom is unlikable. But there’s dark joy to be had in watching him totally screw himself over time and again thanks to his ego and anger issues. His weakness is the botched relationship with his daughter (Emilia Clarke, TV’s Game of Thrones), which is the door that remains ever-so-slightly open as Dom’s gateway to some degree of redemption.

In addition to trying to make his way back into his daughter’s life, Dom has to wrangle with the realities of modern society, such as the banning of smoking in pubs, and he also has to come to terms with the glorious financial success of his friends and competitors.

Naturally, Dom will reach those terms in his own, blunt way.

Cracked

The main attraction in Dom Hemingway is Jude Law himself. Bulked up and sorta paunchy, this is an all-in role for Law. He has many detractors out there thanks to some of his own bad behavior in real life, but he’s a great actor and he’s at the top of his game here.

Another attraction is Emilia Clarke as Dom’s daughter, Evelyn. She’s far-removed from medieval times here and it’s very cool to hear her sing; Evelyn’s in a band and Evelyn’s got soul.

Aside from those performances, though, there’s also some great dialogue in writer/director Richard Shepard’s screenplay.

Amid all of Dom’s loquacious hole-digging, there are loads of quotable gems, most of them not appropriate for publication here. As an example, one of the cleaner lines is spouted out after Dom spends three days of wild abandon and debauchery in an attempt to make up for lost time, the subsequent monumental hangover boiled down to this graphic description, “Cossacks sodomizing my cranium.”

By the end of it all, it turns out that maybe, just maybe, Dom is able to pull off a pretty nifty trick. Despite his repulsiveness, he becomes somebody worth cheering for. He does indeed put the “dog” in underdog, but the ending offers up a little bit of hope for this character study of hubris gone awry as Dom manages to eke out a wee bit of sweet, sweet revenge. Does that feed the beast or finally tame it? At least for some, it’ll be a question worth entertaining.