Steeped purposefully in cheeky and occasionally grating character-heavy bombast, Dom Hemingway tells the tale of the titular former safecracker’s pursuit of a luxurious post-prison lifestyle. Having spent twelve years in the joint on account of the fall he took for former boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), Dom sloppily attempts to reconcile with his estranged daughter as making up for lost time tends to do more harm than good.
Walking the fine line between delightfully unhinged and behaviorally excessive, Jude Law semi-laudably carries the film in spite of unfocused narrative inanity. Borrowing one page too many from the “Goin’ Straight” handbook, our protagonist’s bouts of vulgarity-laden debauchery trump Dom Hemingway‘s jabs at ineffective emotionality, the moments spent in the company of his daughter, her husband and son ringing false as they pale in comparison to darkly humorous inclinations.
Finding greater solace in the realm of broader comedy, Shepard’s script can’t quite strike a competent balance between marginally affecting and gleefully abrasive. Touching upon but never delving deeper into Dom’s existential toxicity, we’re never offered more than a base-level glimpse at what we already know: Dom is his own worst enemy. From vehicular manslaughter to showing up bloodied and sweating booze on his daughter’s doorstep, it’s no surprise that the central character inevitably tries to atone for his wrongdoings following brief stints of self-realization.
While Dom Hemingway isn’t necessarily a failure, it’s writer/director Shepard’s conscious decision to play it safe that hinders a bulk of the proceedings. Opening as strongly as anything comparable preceding it, Jude Law’s performance remains the lone benchmark of a script plagued by tone-deaf banality – one that finds greater strength in crass vitriol than it does predictable soul-searching. With this in mind, and although everything borders on rote archetypal nonsense, Dom Hemingway still remains a serviceable bit of R-rated entertainment.