Jude Law is all grown up. In Richard Shepard’s gangster send-up Dom Hemingway, Law has ditched his pretty-boy looks to play a petty criminal with a paunch and “a face like an abortion.” (Dom’s words, not mine.) The results are so delightful you can’t help hoping Law lets his hairline recede and gym membership expire.
Dom Hemingway begins with our imprisoned hero, naked of torso and arms akimbo, delivering a soliloquy about the many splendors of his “exquisite cock.” His penis is a Picasso, Hemingway argues. It’s a Renoir. It should hang in the Louvre.
Perhaps he’s right, but we never see the member, which, in this opening scene, is the appreciative recipient of a conjugal visit. The true work of art and the driving force behind this farce is Dom’s brain. Sure, it didn’t always make good decisions—there was that 12-year jail sentence for a safe-cracking gone awry. While Dom did time, his estranged wife died of cancer and his daughter came to the understandable conclusion that her father was a schmuck best left to his own devices. But, my God, the similes that flow from Dom’s mouth, even when he’s reeling from a bird-and-blow binge. “It feels like Cossacks are sodomizing my cranium,” he tells Dickie Black, his one-handed partner-in-crime. It’s poetry. Pure poetry.
That’s not to say Dom Hemingway is deep or anything. It’s Sexy Beast meets Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets triumph of the criminal spirit. In other words, it’s damned entertaining, thanks both to Law, who inhabits Hemingway’s sideburns, leisure suits and slouch like he was born a small-time Midlands wastrel, and Richard E. Grant, whose portrayal of the long-suffering, clothes-obsessed Dickie is a breath of wry air.
There is a plot, at least of sorts. Dom and Dickie head to France to retrieve Dom’s share of the spoils from the job that landed him in the joint. Waiting for them is a man they call “Fontaine,” but who now goes by Ivan. Ivan has odd taste in art—namely portraits of primates—and a gorgeous girlfriend who, following an equally gorgeous car crash, takes Dom’s money and runs. Dom then sets out to get his money back and win over the affections of his daughter. Both quests seem doomed from the start, but Dom, while dumb, ain’t stupid. Consider his response to being told he can no longer smoke in his favorite pub because it’s bad for his health.
“Being a cunt is bad for your health,” he says. “I’m just smoking a fag.”
Critic’s Grade: B+
SEE IT: Dom Hemingway is rated R. It opens Friday at Fox Tower.