Dom Hemingway

Apr 17, 2014

Law should be an Oscar candidate  playing Dom Hemingway.

Dom Hemingway

Grade: A-

Director: Richard Shepard (The Hunting Party)

Screenplay: Shepard

Cast: Jude Law (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park)

Rating: R

Runtime: 93 min.

by John DeSando

“Oh. I'll tell you who I am. I'm the f----r who'll tear your nose off with my teeth. I'm the f----r who will gut you with a dull cheese knife and sing Gilbert and Sullivan while I do it. I'm the f----r who'll dump your dead body in a freezing cold lake and watch you sink to the bottom like so much shit. I am that f----r. That's the f----r who I am.” Dom Hemingway (Jude Law)

If you agree Matthew McConaughey deserved the Oscar last year in Dallas Buyers Club, playing a reprobate turned good, then you will agree Jude law in Brit gangster comedy Dom Hemingway should be nominated: He’s better than the very good Matthew with a less redeemable character.

From the opening quote, Dom carries the physical and verbal venom built from 12 years in prison (because he would not rat on the leader of a heist). His language is both profane and ingenious, a mind rich with imagination but untutored. After awhile, his metaphors and quotes from the likes of Shakespeare help to broaden our appreciation for a wild cockney hood on a long rehab.  

The richness of language is not restricted to Dom, for buddy Dickie (Richard E. Grant in a solidly entertaining role) describes a kingpin:  “He was raised in a Russian orphanage and kills people for a living. Of course he has a well-stocked bar.”  Hoodlum leader Lestor (Jumayn Huntere) tells Dom in similarly inventive language, “See, there is a part of me that wants to put you in the trunk of my sister's Prius, drive you up to Canvey Island and bury you up to your thick f----ng neck, cover your fat f----ng face in hamburger patties and let the creatures of the night eat you to death while I watch.”

Law’s Dom is ever analyzing his brutality, the first step toward balancing his life: “Oh, my head is throbbing. It's f----n' throbbin', Dickie. Like a disco in my head. Like a f----ng Manila disco full of transvestites and suckling pigs.” His demons are real in his head.

For an ex-con, gaining back the money he lost in the heist is an obsession leading him into anti-social actions (“I got anger issues.”), but he’s smart enough to see that more satisfactory than those millions is reconciliation with his daughter, whom he abandoned as a child along with her cancer -infected mother. Although these reflections slow the film, they provide a reason for his redemption.

Yet, this all leads to an arguably realistic ending in which an incantation by a woman he saved comes to his rescue too conveniently.  However, his change of fortune also accommodates Dom’s natural inclination for larceny, a nice touch that doesn’t compromise a story seeming to aim at a sappy ending.

This unusual comedy combines the ridiculous with the realistic, and director-writer Richard Shepard makes it, as Dom says, “easy, peasy lemon squeezy.”

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at