Saturday, April 26, 2014

Dom Hemingway: Movie Review

Jude Law attempts to carry a structurally problematic comedic crime film about the 
vulgar and crass Dom Hemingway.

Jude Law opens “Dom Hemingway” with a monologue about his male member. Apparently, it’s exquisite. He’s in prison, or more accurately, was in prison, and he’s now getting out after twelve years. He has scores to settle and after some intense violent rages, we don’t know what else Dom Hemingway is going to get up to. 2013

Directed by: Richard Shepard

Screenplay by: Richard Shepard

Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant

Jude Law’s impressive physical and emotional transformation into the unapologetically crass and ego-driven Dom Hemingway is supposed to be enough to drive the film forward and keep the audience invested, and I’m not sure it is. The opening scenes suggest a comedy born from the extremities with which Dom Hemingway approaches his inappropriate lifestyle. It’s supposed to be funny because it’s so vulgar, but that doesn’t always equate. And then comes the structural problems.

Dickie Black (Richard E. Grant) is taking Dom Hemingway to see some crime lord named Fontaine. While they do give us some humorous descriptions of what Fontaine is like (he was raised in a Russian orphanage, kills people for a living, and obviously has a well-stocked bar), we don’t know why Dom Hemingway is visiting this particular crime lord. The scenes with Demian Bichir’s immensely entertaining Fontaine were significantly less impactful because of the non-existent reasons for being there. After lots of drug use and partying, that particular chapter comes to a close.

The film is structured with various chapters that aren’t directly connected. They do center around Dom Hemingway, and they do chronologically follow Hemingway’s life after prison, but they each have their own “theme”, which is not previously known or even hinted at. Sometimes it seems like the audience is kept in the dark, and the film once again relies on Law’s lively performance of the larger-than-life Hemingway to pull the audience back into the light.

Speaking of light, this is one of the only crime films I’ve seen where the cinematographer and production crew did not fall victim to the over-use of dark and gritty lighting and locals. The locations had a wonderfully up-beat feel to them to counter-act the downward spiral that the reckless Dom Hemingway is bound to experience. Art directors made great use of monkey paintings on the wall and cinematographer Giles Nuttgens had some beautifully designed shots. Of note includes a scene where Fontaine’s villa is bathed in red light which gives way to the browns and greens of nature and in the center is a girl in a red dress sitting on concrete steps surrounded by green bushes with red flowers. There are even more beautiful scenes that follow.

The writing leaves room for improvement in both Hemingway’s monologues and the structure of the film and relies pretty much exclusively on Jude Law’s remarkable uninhibited performance, especially since the always-entertaining Bichir only gets one chapter. For people who don’t like typical crime films, this is perhaps slightly better than average. There are some great comedic lines, but it’s not quite as funny as the film thinks it is. Leaving us with some great cinematography and Jude Law. He can carry a film, but he shouldn’t have to do it alone.