My favorite opening monologue of the year. This is about a safe-cracker (Jude Law) recently out from serving twelve years in prison. He tries to reclaim the money that he’s owed for serving his stint, and attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter. I went into this pretty cold, armed only with the knowledge that Law gives a committed performance in a rapscallion role. Dom Hemingway confirms exactly what kind of movie it is in the first three minutes, where he looks directly into the camera and informs you of how well-endowed he is.
This is the kind of role that every actor wants: there’s a lot to do, and you get to do it intensely due to the nature of how the character is written, and you get to lose yourself in the process. He dominates other people around him and does so loudly; given that he is always under the influence of some sort of alcohol and/or narcotic, he has no filter, and he is not afraid to tell you exactly what he’s thinking. This is strikingly similar to a movie that came out earlier this year, Filth: both involve vulgar, repulsive men, trying to repent and reconnect with their family, all the while finding it nearly impossible to stop reverting back to their old ways. Quality wise, I think they’re just about on the same level as well, although gun to my head, I would give the edge to this because it’s a slightly less reprehensible character. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s given a lot of cutting lines of dialogue to deliver. As far as supporting characters go, they are all fine, but it has to be mentioned that Withnail himself makes an appearance (Richard E. Grant), and seeing him onscreen is the equivalent to being reunited with a long lost friend.
The thing about this is that this is a borderline Oscar-worthy performance in an unfocused movie. The story itself is a bit aimless, and it always hesitates to pledge itself to what it wants to be: does it want to be a fun romp, showcasing this man getting into mischief and saying the wrong thing to every single person? Or does it want to be a sweet redemption story of a father finally able to reach his long lost daughter? The two don’t really complement one another, and as a result, the film as a whole doesn’t end up being something you make any impressionable memories of. You’re going to get something out of this when you watch it, but as far as retaining it goes, this will likely end up being a footnote that will ultimately get forgotten, a great performance in an otherwise unremarkable movie.
Dom Hemingway (2013) ***
– Critic for Hire