Movie Review: Jude Law kills and curses in “Dom Hemingway”

ImageDom Hemingway doesn’t so much converse as rant — long, colorful, creative tirades that seem to run through the entire Cockney vocabulary he polished while in prison. He rants about the guy who married the wife who divorced him, about pubs that have gone “non-smoking” while he was “away,” about what life owes him, giving voice to “the revolutionary INSURGENTS inside my brain.”

And he doesn’t so much shout as bellow, starting with an “OY” as he turns red in the face, his eyes bugging out, his manner suggesting there’s no violence he won’t commit, on impulse, if you give him an excuse.

Jude Law revels in this, the requirements of the title role in “Dom Hemingway,” a violent British comedy about a brutish thief whose 12 years in prison have not mellowed him. It’s a “Sexy Beast” turn — ugly and loud and menacing. And funny. Because Dom’s rage rarely serves him well. He’s determined to beat up the mechanic who married his now-dead wife, to collect a payment from the crime boss who owes his freedom to Dom’s silence, and to reconnect with the daughter who never knew him — and in that order.

Good thing, too. Dom needs an eye-gouging, ear-biting beat-down to settle his nerves.

“I got ANGER issues.”

He needs a little break at the chateau of Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir of “A Better Life” and “The Heat”), where he’ll get his pay off. Of course, Dom is a British bull in the South of France china shop in these scenes.

And by the time all that’s sorted, maybe he’ll be calm enough to win back Evelyn (Emilia Clarke), the daughter who sings in a band, has taken up with a mellow Senegalese band mate and had Afro-English child.

Writer-director Richard Shepard did “”The Matador” and “The Hunting Party”, and he surrounds Law’s lunatic Dom with assorted underworld figures who have mellowed where Dom did not.

“You’re old,” Dom growls at his only friend (Richard E. Grant, also cast against type and quite funny). “I’m old SCHOOL.”

Dom’s unfiltered tirades are sure to get him killed. Or so you’d think. But there’s charm in the venom. Insulting Mr. Fontaine, whose real name is Anatoli, shouldn’t pay off. But the mob boss lets Dom’s “Anal-toli” cheap shots roll off his back.

Dom’s balancing act has a hint of desperation about it. And so does Law’s performance. Over 40 and in need of a re-invention, Law hurls himself at this guy as if his life depended on it. Dom could be describing them both in his narration.

“A man with no options suddenly has ALL the options in the world.”

“Dom Hemingway” has a few similarities to Guy Ritchie’s British mob movies — “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, for instance. Perhaps that’s the message Law is sending to the movie world with his turn in “Dom Hemingway.” His “Sherlock Holmes” director, and everybody else, should see there’s a lot more to him than the fussbudget Dr. Watson that he’s playing of late. He’s still got his dangerous side.

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MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use

Cast: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demien Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Madalina Diana Ghenea

Credits: Written and directed by Richard Shepard. A Fox Searchlight release.

Running time: 1:33

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