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Dom Hemingway




Released: 2013

Directed By: Richard Shepard

Starring: Jude Law, Richard E.Grant

Certificate: 15

Reviewed By: Rohan Morbey

At face value Dom Hemingway shouldn’t work. By 2013 the charm of cockney criminals has worn so thin you can see right through it thanks to imitations of Guy Ritchie’s early work; I’m referring to rubbish like Love, Honour, and Obey, Revolver, RocknRolla, Gangster No. 1 and anything starring Danny Dyer. The resurgence in these kinds of films since the late 90s has marred British cinema, so when I saw Jude Law was starring in a film about a cockney criminal, you can forgive me for wanting to give it a wide berth.

The joys of Blu-ray means I could give it a go and not worry about wasting £10 on a ticket with the ‘stop’ button on my remote control within immediate reach. I’m pleasantly surprised to say the film worked for me for the most part, thanks to a performance from Jude Law unlike anything he’s given on screen to date. If you’re a fan of the actor, then Dom Hemingway is a must see; if you’re not, then it’s difficult to recommend as he’s in 99% of scenes.

The story is one we’ve seen countless times before; a career criminal (the titular Don Hemingway) is released from jail and gets right back into his sordid lifestyle whilst looking to get his reward for keeping his mouth shut and not ratting anyone out. What sets this film apart is the relentlessly energetic Law and his ability to turn what might have been simply crude and vulgar dialogue into something which truly brings a character to life. He embodies Hemingway from the way he walks, talks, swears, drinks, laughs, and cries. Hemingway isn’t someone we’ve never seen in cinema before (think of a slightly less menacing version of Don Logan in Sexy Beast) but writer/director Richard Shepard (of 2005’s underrated The Matador) gives his protagonist a ‘modern Shakespearian’ quality of a self-professed king who has lost his crown, his wealth, and his kingdom and has several monologues or extended, uninterrupted speeches which isn’t the normal rhythm and flow we’re used to hearing in films like this. It’s very funny at times, with Law delivering the dialogue with every bit of the assured confidence needed to make Hemingway come to life. If you’re not sensitive to hearing the C-Bomb dropped every other sentence, chances are you’ll agree.

Shepard’s film is shot competently, too, with an excellent car crash sequence done in a style I can’t recall seeing before and a vibrant colour palette used throughout, ensuring his film is never dull to look at. Where his film is let down is in Hemingway’s story arc in the second half which uncomfortably shoehorns in an estranged daughter, grandchild, and dead wife along with a pointless plot where Hemingway attempts to break into a safe. We assume this is going somewhere, but sadly it doesn’t and ends up feeling like a time-padding device rather than a natural progression of a well-devised story.

Don Hemingway ends up on a cheeky note, leaving the viewer to decide where the character’s future may lead but one can’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by the end result and lack of real focus, considering how surprisingly strong the opening 45 minutes is. The film comes recommended for Jude Law above all else, one could do a lot worse than give 90 minutes of your time to watch him at his very best.


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