Review: Dom Hemingway (TIFF 2013)
PLOT: After serving a twelve year stretch in prison, Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is out. With his best friend, Lefty (Richard E. Grant) in tow, Dom goes off looking to collect the money his former boss (Demian Bichir) owes him for keeping quiet. He also tries to re-connect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke) who despises him.
REVIEW: Richard Shepard's THE MATADOR is a film I've always found has been criminally underrated. Star Pierce Brosnan- who gleefully soiled his suave image- deserved an Oscar nomination, but didn't get one. Shepard's follow-up, THE HUNTING PARTY more or less came and went without much of an impact, and while it wasn't quite up to the standards of THE MATADOR, it deserved a far better fate.
Now, Shepard is back with DOM HEMINGWAY, a movie that could could be seen as THE MATADOR's spiritual sequel. Surely, the title character feels like he could have been Brosnan's MATADOR hit-man Julian's soul-mate. Shepard takes another suave and sophisticated ladies man and lets him dirty-up his image, with Jude Law obviously having the time of his life as the unhinged, but always sympathetic Dom.
Now that Law's a little older, and a tad more rumpled, he feels like an actor prime for reinvention, and Shepard gives him the opportunity. This is Law as you've never seen him before, with a thick (or as he'd pronounce it here- fick) cockney accent, a hard man beard, and a bit of a gut. He's certainly a long way from ALFIE, and he looks cool as hell. I really can't oversell how amazing Law is here. From his opening five minute monologue where he waxes poetic on the beauty of his penis while getting fellated by another prisoner, Law's out-of-control good. He also manages to walk the same fine line Brosnan did in MATADOR, in that he's probably unhinged, but somehow manages to stay likable. You see, underneath it all, Dom has a good heart, and just wants to do right by his daughter. And, if he can possibly get rich while doing about a pound of cocaine and sleeping with every prostitute in sight, that's all the better.
While mostly a one-man show, DOM HEMINGWAY also has couple of great supporting parts. Richard E. Grant seems to be channeling his part in WITHNAIL AND I to play Law's hard-man buddy Lefty, who's always got his back, even though Lefty himself admits a few times that he's a bit of a c*nt. Don't worry, they're British. It's almost a term of endearment, or at least it is the way Grant says it. Emilia Clarke, from GAME OF THRONES, is disguised by lots of mousy makeup, but she's likable as Dom's daughter, who's believably angry at the man who missed out of twelve years of her life.
Shepard's memorably foul-mouthed dialogue is in fine form here, with tons of instantly classic one liners coming from Dom at a lightening-fast pace. I won't spoil any of them here. They need to be discovered on your own. Shepard's quirky visuals are dialed down a bit from THE HUNTING PARTY, but there's plenty of interesting scenes, such as Bichir's roomful of monkey art (already being used on the posters) and a stunning (and hilarious) coke and whiskey fueled car-crash. Shepard regular Rolfe Kent is back to provide a bouncy score, supplemented by great tracks like “Debaser” by The Pixies.
Obviously, if you liked THE MATADOR, DOM HEMINGWAY is right up your alley. Law's going to win himself a lot or new fans with this, his best role in years. It feels like it could be the start of a whole-new facet of his career, as he plays dark comedy really well, and makes a convincing hard-man now that he's older. To me this played out as one of the breakout hits of TIFF, and is not to be missed. DOM HEMINGWAY is fan-f**king-tastic!