The star’s recent Oscar win for “Dallas Buyer’s Club” was the frosting on the McConaissance cake, the transformation from shirtless rom com star to serious leading man.
Jude Law seems to have taken note, trading in the “pretty young thing” roles of “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Alfie” in favor of darker character pieces. His latest, “Dom Hemingway,” is his most noir creation yet.
When we first meet Mr. Hemmingway he’s in jail, a safecracker with anger issues in the midst of a twelve-year stretch. Upon release he looks up best friend Dickie (Richard E. Grant), a one-handed small time crook who reconnects him with former boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir), an elegant but deadly crime lord. The way Dom sees it Mr. Fontaine owes him a great deal of money for keeping his mouth shut in prison but a near death experience changes everything.
“Dom Hemingway” is not a great movie. It is weirdly paced and betrays it’s hard edge with sentimentality but it is worth seeing despite itself; worth seeing because of Jude Law’s performance.
“I am a legend, a myth, a glorious tale to be handed down from generation to generation,” Hemmingway boasts, with a self worth almost as broad as his vocabulary. He’s an uneducated thug with a way with words and Law brings him to vivid whiskey soaked life in an aggressively comic performance.
Twenty years ago the part would have been played by Bob Hoskins or Ray Winstone, rough and tumble actors with a built in sense of menace. Law, by contrast, doesn’t seem to be an obvious substitute, but it’s the kind of character part that suits him. In retrospect he always seemed an uncomfortable fit in some of his leading man roles that relied more on his charm than talent. Here he brings an unexpectedly dangerous but funny vibe to the film, reminiscent of Ben Kingsley’s work in “Sexy Beast.”
Whether he is bragging that his manhood could save starving children in Somalia, in a bravura opening monologue, or staring moon-eyed at his estranged daughter, Law is better than the movie in a role that could come to redefine his career.