The opening scene of Dom Hemingway is a bit of a shocker. Jude Law is standing nude – from the top up, we can’t see below – making a long speech about the brilliance of manhood, spitting on every other word.
He finishes, and a woman emerges from below his belt.
Law’s appearance is shocking too. To play the criminal of the title, the actor piled on more than 20 pounds. In addition to the bulk, he wears a fixture in his nose to make it look broken, sports some dodgy-looking teeth and his naturally receding hairline is prominently on show.
It turns out that Dom is in prison, but not for long. He is released soon after the start of the film and promptly beats up the man who married his ex-wife, nursed her through the cancer that killed her and took care of Dom’s daughter.
Punch-up over, Dom meets up with old friend and criminal colleague, Dickie (Richard E Grant). After a long drink and drug-fuelled session, the pair head off to the south of France to meet crime boss Mr Fontaine (Demian Bichir). Dom is hoping to be rewarded for keeping his mouth shut during his 12-year stint in prison.
Dom is clearly in a state of flux though. He gets drunk, shouts at Mr Fontaine, finally gets the financial reward he’s after but then loses it after a booze-induced car crash. So Dickie and Dom head back to London, where a slightly racist but now repentant Dom is trying to reacquaint himself with his estranged daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) and her husband (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), but she wants nothing to do with him.
Dom is also trying to find work on the wrong side of the law and pursues a young crime boss, who won’t stop going on about his deceased cat and dresses like Tinie Tempah.
The problem with Richard Shepard’s film is that it hasn’t quite worked out what it wants to be: is it a comedy, a gritty London gangster thriller or the study of a tragic character?
It seems the writer-director has not made up his mind about Dom either. He’s both incredibly eloquent and jaw-droppingly stupid, which simply does not tally up.
Law does what he can with the confused material while Grant stands in the background doing what he does best: playing a sarcastic, droll comic foil.