‘Dom Hemingway’ Movie Review – No Rooting for Bad Guy
Although it certainly isn’t a new development, Hollywood (and the entertainment business) has almost overused the embattled “hero” trope. “Hero” is in quotations because the character in question isn’t a traditional hero. Instead, they’re a half-good, half-bad character that is designed to make us question whether or not we should root for them. The great movies (or TV shows) succeed in developing the character and story to work together to make it a thought-provoking piece. The not-so-great movies, like Richard Shepard’s (I Knew It Was You) Dom Hemingway, don’t quite achieve this feat.
Dom Hemingway is, you guessed it, about a character named Dom Hemingway (played by Jude Law). After a 12 year stint in jail, Dom is released and tries to put his life back together. As it says on screen, 12 years is a long time. In that time, his wife has passed and he’s become a grandpa. The movie then becomes a struggle about him trying to get those 12 years back, including trying to get the dues he is owed for not ratting others out.
Among Dom’s supporting cast is his best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant), his crime boss (Damian Bichir), and his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke).
Up to this point, if you hadn’t seen the movie, you’d think it was some form of a drama. However, Sheppard uses a much lighter tone to tell the story. Off the top, this doesn’t mean it is inherently a bad idea. I’ve seen some darker stuff effectively portrayed using a lighter tone. In fact, British counterparts like Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels are probably appropriate comparisons.
Dom Hemingway just isn’t as interesting or funny.
It’s not Hemingway’s fault either, because Law does his damnedest to make the movie worth watching. He’s loud, crass, and, yes, entertaining. However, his performance can only take you so far. With a meandering motive – part of the appeal to his character I know – it is frustrating to watch. And that’s not because his character is going through a lot.
Like I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest problems is there isn’t a whole lot making Hemingway a person you’d want to root for. It’s really hard to sympathize with him, and I’d have to guess it is part of the script, the story, and the movie’s direction to make him a more likable guy. Besides the fact that we know Law is portraying his character, I can’t find a whole lot of reason to hope this guy gets his life back on track.
Recent TV shows like AMC’s Breaking Bad and Netflix’s House of Cards have used a much different platform, story, and style to explore this dichotomy between rooting for and rooting against a character. Richard Shepard’s Dom Hemingway isn’t trying to copy these stories in the aforementioned categories, but it is trying to copy the underlying character concept. As you can probably tell, it misses the boat by quite a bit.
Dom Hemingway released this weekend in limited theaters. Check your local listings to see if the movie is playing near you.
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