British actor takes robust dive into meaty role as blaspheming bully safecracker
Starring Jude Law and Richard E. Grant
Directed by Richard Shepard
R, 93 min.
Jude Law, best known for playing sidekick Dr. Watson in two Sherlock Holmes movies, is a fine actor who’s risen steadily through the ranks, playing leading men as well as supporting roles in Alfie, Road to Perdition, Cold Mountain, Hugo, The Talented Mr. Ripley and the recent The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Generally, he’s been known for the ease at which he slides into the roles of mannered gents, well-spoken suitors and empathetic, heartthrob hunks. So it’s a bit jarring, certainly at first, to see him in the title role of his latest project as a beefed up, bellowing, blaspheming beast of a bully, a loud-mouthed safecracker just out of prison who’s looking to catch up on everything he’s missed after 12 years in the pokey—and collect on what he’s owed from the high-dollar heist that put him there.
In the opening sequence, Dom delivers a soaring, profanely poetic soliloquy on a certain private body part of which he’s glowingly proud; beats, kicks and bites an old acquaintance nearly to death; and robustly dives into an orgy of booze, sex and other formerly off-limits excesses.
“You can’t make up for twelve years in three days,” his old friend and criminal cohort Dickie (Richard E. Grant) cautions him later. “Well, I tried,” says Dom.
Dom is a smug, swaggering keg of dynamite, and you’d better stand clear when he blows. Law’s all-out performance is a brash Cockney explosion of verbiage, violence, deep, dark comedy and even soggy sweetness, as when he tries to reconnect with his now-adult daughter, whose childhood he completely missed, and her young son. It’s completely unlike any role he’s ever had before, and he bores into it so deeply, it’s almost hard to remember all those “nice guys” he portrayed before it.
“I got anger issues,” says Dom. “I just do.”
It’s too bad the rest of the movie isn’t quite as good as its star. Director Richard Shepard pulls off some nice cinematic touches—a volatile scene in a room full of oversized monkey portraits, a hyper-stylized car crash, a hallucinogenic nighttime celebration in a secluded French mansion. But the plot often feels imbalanced and indecisive in its tone, as if its individual pieces somehow couldn’t be put together in sync. We never really know whether to feel sorry for Dom, to root for him, or to recoil in terror that anyone like him could be walking among us.
But what Law does with his role is reason enough alone to see it—if you can find it on its limited theatrical run. He’s far out of his zone of easy Hollywood familiarity, tearing into it with a rawness and ferocity no one has seen before, like one of Shakespeare’s most scabrous lost characters, somehow unleashed in the modern world, and clearly relishing the grit and the gristle.
Be prepared to be surprised, and maybe even shocked. “I’m Dom Hemingway!” he reminds others, himself, and us, several times. Anyone who sees Jude Law in one of the meatiest, most muscular roles he’s ever played will certainly remember.
—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine