DIRECTED BY Richard Shepherd
STARS Jude Law, Richard E. Grant
Jude Law in Dom Hemingway. (Photo: Fox Searchlight)
We can always expect to see sequels to action flicks or superhero sagas or animated efforts, but where's the continued love for comparatively small-scale character studies? There have been countless movies with a dazzling protagonist at the center, but because they're not deemed franchise-worthy, they end up one-and-done. Think, for instance, of Brendan Gleeson's profane Irish cop in The Guard, or Brie Larson's dedicated social worker in Short Term 12, or any of a number of working-class stiffs from Mike Leigh's British gems. These are all great characters, and it's a shame we in all likelihood won't ever be seeing them on screen again. The same holds true for the titular figure in Dom Hemingway, an enjoyable lark featuring a magnificent performance by Jude Law. Here is a mesmerizing movie character, and when the picture ended after an all-too-brief 93 minutes, my first thought was that it was sad that this was probably the last I would see of Dom Hemingway.
On paper, Dom doesn't sound like anything special, just one more small-time criminal who's back on the streets after years of incarceration. But as created by Richard Shepherd, the writer-director who gave Pierce Brosnan his best role (as a forlorn hit man) in The Matador, and brought to life by Law, this safecracker is a real firecracker, with a temper so volatile that he has no trouble drunkenly insulting a ruthless kingpin to his face. That would be Ivan Fontaine (A Better Life Oscar nominee Demian Bichir), a Russian mobster who knows he owes his employee Dom a huge debt for remaining silent during his dozen years in prison. As Dom explains to his pal Dickie (Richard E. Grant), that's a significant chunk of a life to lose, more so since his lengthy jail stay meant he wasn't around when his wife died of cancer or to watch his daughter grow into a young woman (Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke). Now that he's out, he feels that he deserves everything good that life has to offer. Life, of course, has other ideas.
Right from his character's opening monologue, when Dom asks, "Is my cock exquisite?" and proceeds to describe how his member should win a Nobel Peace Prize and deserves its own painting in the Louvre, Law burns with an intensity he's rarely displayed before. His volcanic emulsions find a leavening checkmate in Grant's measured timidity and a suitable sparring partner in the equally eruptive crime boss Lestor, played with amusing prickliness by Jumayn Hunter. Dom's his own worst enemy, though, and despite his status as a crook, a bully and even a buffoon, it's affecting to watch him try to connect to a daughter who wants nothing to do with him — a testament to both Law's performance and Shepherd's scripting.
As stated, Dom Hemingway is such a minor movie that there's no chance we'll get a Dom Hemingway 2. But perhaps Shepherd can loan the character out? Personally, I would love to see him turn up in Avatar 2, Ghostbusters 3 or any of the other gazillion sequels Hollywood has on tap.