Jude Law’s erratic career as a leading man gets a shot in the arm from Richard Shepard’s tough, abrasive gangster drama, featuring Law as Dom Hemingway. Introduced with a hypnotic monologue in prison, Hemingway springs out into the outside world with a vengeance, chasing after money he’s owed and prepared to administer beating after beating on the way.
Hemingway hooks up with his old pal Dickie (Richard E Grant, to find that the world has gone to the dogs while he’s been behind bars. Unable to smoke in pubs, his wife has gone and his daughter doesn’t want anything to do with him. Dom and Dickie head for the South of France to track down his missing money, and end up in a drugs, booze and sex romp that leaves Hemingway broke and vengeful.
Although the revenge narrative is more conventional, Law makes Hemingway a shockingly original force of nature, the opening scenes are wildly unpredictable as he faces up to various gangster types. And things are brought to a tense climax in an extended scene where Dom attempts to prove that he’s still got the skills to crack a safe, although the manner in which he does so it shocking and surprising. Law has the charisma of Michael Caine in the 1960’s in these scenes, puffed up, arrogant and yet with a few clear chinks in his personality.
Ignored in the UK, where gangster flick are ten-a-penny, Dom Hemingway is not for everyone; his attitudes to sex, money and women are decidedly retro. But he’s a fascinating, vital character, and Shepard’s film gives him plenty of opportunity to vent his spleen through a full-on performance from Law.