By Gary Dowell
He’s his own worst enemy and the kind of guy you love and hate in equal measure, a man you want to smack some bloody sense into but don’t because it’s likely a body part or two will get ripped off by him; and in Jude Law’s capable hands, Dom Hemingway is a lunatic bastard with the heart of a poet.
We get an unforgettable introduction to Dom via a close-up of Law, sporting a greasy receding hairline, middle-age paunch, and outdated mutton chops, as he delivers an almost Shakespearean monologue about the epic potential of his genitalia. Soon after, the former safe cracker is released from a 12-year stretch in prison; he immediately beats the living hell out of the man who married his now-deceased ex-wife while he was in prison (on general principle, of course) before reconnecting with friend/low-level hood Dickie (Richard E. Grant) and seeking out Russian crime lord Fontaine (Demian Bichir). Dom turned down a plea bargain that would have drastically cut his sentence in exchange for ratting on Fontaine, thus resulting in the lengthy prison term that cost him his family.
When he visits Fontaine in France to collect on his hush money, Dom’s short fuse and big mouth begin to threaten the deal with the only slightly more restrained Russian. Dom is a man who makes his own luck, and most of it is bad. While trying to keep his golden parachute from unraveling, he attempts to mend fences with his now-adult daughter, Evie (Emilia Clarke), and find work via the son (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) of a bitter rival.
Dom Hemingway boasts the same producers as Jonathan Glazer’s classic black comedy Sexy Beast; and much the way Ben Kingsley stole that film with a bravura performance, Law runs rampant as a man trying to learn the fine art of self-control very late in life. Granted, Dom is slightly more likable than Don Logan, if only because he falls just short of being a raging psychopath. Law dives in the role head-first, capturing Dom’s cocksure swagger and fiery temper, as well as his deeply buried grief and frustration. Grant counterbalances him perfectly as his sardonic best mate, and the two make a great duo.
The plot starts to meander and lose a little steam just after the halfway mark, and the tone isn’t consistent; but the combination of Law and Grant with the sharp visual style and clever dialogue by writer-director Richard Shepard keeping it cruising along nicely. More importantly, it never stops being viciously clever and cleverly vicious.