Petty gangster, safecracker, loud mouth, loose cannon, thief, deadbeat dad, pint guzzling, word-smithing, cat killing, boorish thug Dom Hemingway is the type of guy you would have no tolerance for in real life, but generally gravitate towards on screen. Twelve years is a long time, but Dom did his time in silence to protect his betters, and after being set free of Her Majesty’s Pleasure (I’m assuming not for good behavior) attempts to pick up the pieces of his life. While on the inside, his wife died of cancer, his daughter grew up and had kids, his boss go very, very rich, and his only friend in the world, Dickie – a snappily attired Richard E. Grant with his hangdog face, shooting glasses and shrugged shoulders – remaining loyal. He is not out of the joint for 24 hours before he’s had group sex with high class hookers, violated the non-smoking law in the local pub, and filled his nostrils with coke on top of the smoke and beat the living hell out of the man who married (and buried) his wife while he was on the inside. All of this pent up rage and sexual bluster is of course Dom’s way of not processing the guilt of missing out on his daughter’s (and grandson’s) life.
Like Eric Bana in Chopper, or Tom Hardy in Bronson, Jude Law gets to look really ugly with facial scars and yellowed, gold-capped teeth. He gets to act really crazy, and burn up the screen with monologues about the majesty his his mighty cock, even thought writer director Richard Shepard’s film is more of an amuse-bouche than anything else however. It aspires to dig into the psychology of a larger than life character, while indulging in all those larger than life aspects while Dom attempts to get his life of crime back on track. It breaks things up into ironically titled chapters to facilitate this. I confess, I am a sucker for films in which characters who manage a micro-moment of communication by a silent but loaded, wave of the hand, and this movie has that at one point. But there are also shenanigans. Pithy, violent, frankly, ridiculous shenanigans that put Dom Hemingway strictly in movie fantasy territory. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just that the movie never quite manages to have its cake and eat it too.