Antiheroes definitely have a place in movies. Let’s face it, sometimes screwed-up losers are much more interesting than happy, settled, evolved characters.
However, it can be something of a balancing act. How far can you go into the dark side without totally losing your audience? How far into the muck will the film go? Will it be alright to introduce the character by having him doing a lilting soliloquy to his cock? Will it push the envelope to show him drunk or high nearly the entire length of the movie? Will it be going too far to reveal that one of his previous crimes was killing a housecat?
The title character in Dom Hemingway is played in a full-on Guy Ritchie tough lather by Jude Law. It’s a terrific job of creating an almost completely unlikeable character. Dom is not merely volatile in his volcanic fits of anger, he often seems either stupid or suicidal. He gets himself into constant scrapes and danger because he can not filter a thing he says or does – particularly when he is drunk or high.
He disrespects and tells off killers, gangsters, bosses, old friends, jail guards, women, barkeeps and anyone else who disagrees with him about just about anything. And then he goes off alone and beats himself up for having the worst luck in the world.
Note to Dom: If you don’t go out of your way to piss off every single person who crosses your path, maybe some more good things will come his way.
But, okay, that is the character we are following. So the question remains, is the story interesting and empathetic enough that the audience will overlook the general douchiness of our protagonist?
The answer is: Yes, somewhat.
Dom Hemingway is a flawed but mostly interesting entry into the British gangster genre, and that specific style tends to specialize in explosive alpha-male types. Writer/director Richard Shepard, the man behindThe Matador, is clever enough to drop his Neanderthal antihero in the middle of a gently comic and surreal thug life, where most everyone around him is more understanding of fate’s whimsical qualities than Dom ever could be.
Dom is the bull in the china shop, mostly harming himself at every turn. As the press notes diplomatically describes the character, Dom is “a larger-than-life safecracker with a cocky swagger who is witty, unhinged and full of piss and vinegar.” Other, more powerful men look at him with a certain amount of bemusement. They realize they should probably just kill him to shut him up, but he is oddly entertaining to them.