How you react to Dom Hemingway is completely reliant of how you react to the title character. It’s easy to imagine that some will quickly be on his side, seeing him as a funny and entertaining wide-boy, but there will be plenty of others who will never be able get past the fact Dom is often a complete asshole. It essentially depends on if you find the fact Dom thinks he’s a legend but is actually a mess is oddly charming and empathetic, or whether it just makes him a dick.
And talking of dicks, the movie certainly starts out in a way no other ever has, with Dom giving an almost Shakespearean soliloquy to how magnificent he thinks his cock is while getting a BJ from a fellow prisoner. It sets the tone for a character who’ll either make you endlessly laugh or just roll your eyes.
Shortly after his penile ode, Dom is released from prison after a 12-year stretch, which was only that long because he refused to rat on someone else. He leaves jail like a bullet, determined to get what he thinks he’s due, whether that’s beating up the man who his ex-wife took up with after they divorced, or – more importantly – getting the money he’s owed for his silence.
While he certainly has a way with words, he’s not the legend he thinks he is, not least because he has little self-control and often seems totally self-destructive. This leaves him with no money and no plan, other than the hope that his wheeler-dealing will get him through, and that perhaps he’ll find a way back into the life of his estranged daughter.
As mentioned, Dom’s a character where some will be on his side no matter what terrible things he does, while others will think he’s an asshole. Personally I was on the latter end for much of the movie, although when the possibility of redemption began to emerge, I was slightly, but not completely, swayed. It also doesn’t help that there are moments when the film swims to the edge of misogyny and homophobia, which are partly understandable due to Dom’s anger issues and love of saying whatever he thinks will push someone’s button, but at others it’s the movie itself that gives women in particular short shrift.
What there’s little doubt of though is that Jude Law puts in a tremendous performance, going at the title role full throttle in a way that’s magnetic to watch even when it’s on the edge of the ridiculous. It really is one of the best performances he’s ever given on film, and you get the impression it’s that way because it gives him so much room to really lose himself in the part and play with Dom’s wonderfully over-the-top use of language. (And just FYI, if you like the idea of Jude prancing around naked and showing his butt off, there’s some of that in the film).
Even those who decide they like Dom will have to admit the movie has some flaws, not least that its love of the title character often starts to obscure the actual plot. This becomes particularly problematic when the movie starts to have to rely on fate and sentimentality, which doesn’t really seems to fit the rest of the movie. But then, it almost has to do that to get itself out of the predicament it’s gotten itself into due to being so focussed on Dom to the detriment of the overall storytelling.
Overall Verdict: Sometimes oddly mesmeric and sometimes a little annoying and unpleasant – and that’s both the movie and the title character. And like that character, the movie has a decent amount to offer but it’s pretty flawed.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac