Opens Fri., April 18 at Meridian and Sundance. Rated R. 93 minutes.
Striding naked through an orchard in the south of France, Jude Law manages to look like both a man completely in control of his fate yet also completely lost. “I’m scared,” he confesses one moment; the next, he delivers a proud three-minute speech on the magnificence of his cock (being vigorously serviced, just out of frame), which would gladly deliver world peace and provide for starving orphans—if only it could. The problem is that Dom (Law) and his cock begin the film in prison; he can’t help anyone, least of all himself. His virility, anger, and confidence have been confined for 12 years, because this safecracker refused to rat on his boss. The orchard comes later, as do random plot complications including a car crash, the theft of three-quarters of a million pounds (Dom’s reward for keeping mum), our hero’s grown and estranged daughter, and a petty London mobster who threatens to cut off Dom’s cock. (Why do we keep returning to that topic?)
Back to Law: Aren’t we all glad he’s no longer pretty? His hairline is what it is, and his youthful beauty has now grown blocky, like a modernist building slathered with stucco. And it suits him. Law’s lately been challenging himself with meaty roles on the English stage, including Hamlet and Henry V; he’s nobody’s Romeo these days. The best bits in the stylish, lurching Dom Hemingway are the mini-soliloquys where Dom gets to rip loose on the various indignities inflicted upon him. There’s a trace of Lear in this plaintive hoodlum, who soon after prison is broke, betrayed, homeless, and spurned by his daughter (only one, but still). Lamenting the “pestilence” of his misfortune, he chews on the word like a lemon yet refuses to swallow his pride. Law is the first, best, and almost only memorable thing here. (Though the pleasure of seeing Richard E. Grant in yellow aviator shades and cravat cannot be denied.)
Still, the plot peters out pretty fast and familiarly. American writer/director Richard Shepard (The Matador, The Linguini Incident) creates nice little gangster filigrees for Law’s delectation, but not much story for us. There’s money to recover, the matter of the daughter (Emilia Clarke), a safe to crack, and an old-school criminal’s code that Dom insists on honoring while the rest of the world does not. “I’ve got magic fingers,” grandiloquent Dom insists of his trade; but really, he’s all mouth.