Every now and then an actor needs to get outside his comfort zone.
In “Dom Hemingway,” Jude Law leaves his usual suave screen persona wimpering in the dust.
That it’s going to be a bumpy ride is evident from the first shot of the film, a long take of Dom’s face and naked shoulders as he screams about the power of his penis.
It’s a mighty organ, to hear Dom tell it, capable of upending empires and slaying women who merely get a glimpse of it, and his spittle-spewing rant goes on for two, three, maybe even four minutes of uninterrupted profane poetry.
Oh, did I mention that Dom’s in prison and being pleasured by a young inmate while he lets rip with his phallic analysis?
Dom has spent the last 12 years in a British prison for refusing to give up the crime boss for whom he worked. Now he’s getting out, and he fully expects to be repaid for his time behind bars.
He’s met at the prison gates by his old pal Dickie (Richard Shepard, marvelously greasy), who over the years has lost one hand on a job and now wears an inflexible prosthetic in a black leather glove.
Dom has two things immediately on his mind. First, sex. Dickie has provided a couple of eager birds for just that purpose. Second, he beats the living crap out of the nondescript guy who married Dom’s ex-wife (she has since died of cancer) and raised Dom’s daughter (Evelyn).
Then it’s off to France for a meeting with the powerful Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), a meeting the somewhat less-than-stable Dom nearly blows by swaggering in and reaming his old boss with one of his crazed tirades.
Dom being Dom, the whole thing goes tits up (there’s a marvelous slow-mo car crash that leaves the viewer stranded between horror and maniacal laughter), so it’s back to England to try to mend fences with Evelyn (Emilia Clark, the dragon queen of “Game of Thrones”) and to try to get back in the game with a local hoodlum (Jumayn Hunter) who carries a grudge.
“Dom Hemingway” was written and directed by Richard Shepard, who has given us the lovely “Matador” (a crime yarn with a post-Bond Pierce Brosnan as a seedy crook) and the somewhat less successful “The Hunting Party” (about a journalist looking for a war criminal in Bosnia).
“Dom Hemingway” works tropes all too familiar from other trashcan tales of Brit crime (Bob Hoskins made a ton of them in the‘80s). You can’t call it original.
But Law’s transformation into an overweight (like, 40 pounds), sideburned lowlife is spectacular. His Dom is one of those fellows who is totally sure of himself with absolutely no justification, a hair-temper loser who thinks swagger is the same thing as savvy.
You won’t always like Dom, but you will be entertained by him.