No hint of the debonair playboy that earned
Nary a trace of the wry Dr. Watson from
Law has embraced the lawless Dom so completely, disappeared so deeply, that it can be disconcerting to witness the bruising altercations and poetically perverse soliloquies that dominate this immoral morality play. Almost every line is delivered with such overwrought bombast, just inches at times from the camera, you may feel a need to dodge the spittle.
Love Dom or hate him — and most will be inclined toward both — the performance is in full throttle constantly, and full monty briefly. The actor is clearly having the time of his life being bad to the bone.
I wish the film were more fun for the rest of us.
The bad teeth, the broken nose, the extra 20 or so pounds are jarring. But it is what Law does with Dom that is at the core of the film's double-edged sword.
Take the opening scene where we get the, ahem, full measure of the man.
It is in the prison where the sorry sod has spent the last 12 long years for not ratting out his boss. Dom has curried his rage, inflated his ego along with his belly, and plotted his revenge for all that lost time. His wife divorced him then died, his daughter's estranged, his bank account's dry. But that's not the subject of his effusive, extensive rant. What we get is a colorful, caustic ode to his most majestic private part, which at the moment is being, how shall I put this, manhandled.
Did I mention, Dom can be insufferable?
"Dom Hemingway," while not nearly as gratifying, is nevertheless the director's most fully realized film. Between Law's performance and Shepard's script, which brims with explicit and expressive dialogue, the movie is remarkable for its ability to exhaust, irritate and also entertain.
Back to that British prison. Just beyond the bars and the initial ignominy, stands Dickie, Dom's old partner in crime and possibly his only friend. Portrayed by an excellently under-expressive Richard E. Grant, Dickie appears to be channeling an
Dom, meanwhile, sports a tailored suit decades out of date and decidedly too tight. Not surprisingly he tends to leave serious wreckage in his wake, and that trail of destruction is what the film follows.
It will lead Dom and Dickie to a posh estate in the South of France, where Dom intends to collect from the boss he protected all those years, a very polished Demián Bichir as Mr. Fontaine. A series of bad choices and female distractions follow, until Dom makes his way back to his estranged daughter, Evelyn.
More typically, a sense of the overwrought saturates the proceedings with an assist from director of photography
Dom is dealt a bad hand at every turn, but it is always a toss-up as to where the blame lies and how much the man is the master — or saboteur — of his fate. As Dom struggles toward decency and his daughter, Evelyn is left deciding whether to forgive him.
That is the question for us as well. There is something worthy inside "Dom Hemingway" that keeps trying to surface, but it is buried so deeply under distracting excesses that it makes the movie hard to forgive, harder still to love.
MPAA rating: R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: At ArcLight, Hollywood; Landmark Theatre, West Los Angeles