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‘Dom Hemingway’: A boorish Jude Law character wears out his welcome

Jude Law transforms himself for “Dom Hemingway.” |  FOX SEARCHLIGHT

Jude Law transforms himself for “Dom Hemingway.” | FOX SEARCHLIGHT

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Dom Jude Law

Dickie Richard E. Grant

Mr. Fontaine Demian Bichir

Evelyn Emilia Clarke

Fox Searchlight presents a film written and directed by Richard Shepard. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: May 12, 2014 6:16AM

The Jude Law of “Dom Hemingway” looks like he swallowed the Jude Law of “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”

The 41-year-old Law plays a character at least a decade older than that in “Dom Hemingway.” With a tiny peninsula of hair clinging to his balding forehead, a rugby player’s neck, a thick midsection, bad teeth and crooked nose, the title character is a formidable brute of a man who has just done 12 years hard time rather than rat out his mates and his boss. It’s a startling physical transformation; wasn’t it just the other day Law was playing pretty-boy leading-man types?

But regardless of the outward requirements of a role, Law could always deliver fine work. In “Dom Hemingway,” he goes for a theatrical performance, and at times he’s a blaze of talent lighting up the screen with the sheer ferociousness of his line readings.

Pity he’s playing a boor who’s also a bore.

Spouting Shakespearean monologues about his prodigious manhood or his fearless genius, Dom Hemingway is convinced of his greatness, and seemingly incapable of thinking five minutes past his latest, booze-fueled eruption. He’s the kind of guy who finds himself greatly amusing long after his audience has slinked away from a combination of disgust and fear.

When Dom is finally sprung from a British prison, his fellow inmates send him off by chanting his name and showering the prison yard with toilet paper confetti — but the more we get to know Dom, the more we’re thinking they were just celebrating the fact they wouldn’t have to put up with this obnoxious lout any more.

Writer-director Richard Shepard (who directed what might have been Pierce Brosnan’s best screen performance in “The Matador”) infuses “Dom Hemingway” with touches reminiscent of a Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino, including title cards setting up each chapter (the titles aren’t nearly as clever as they’re surely intended to be), loads of black humor and moments of shocking violence that aren’t all that shocking.

Every time it appears as if there’s more to Dom than we’ve imagined, there’s another scene telling us, no, that’s pretty much it. He’s a miserable, psychotic, alcoholic S.O.B. whose occasional flirtations with real human emotions don’t come close to making amends for his viciousness — and, more damning in terms of our interest in the story, his dullness.

After Dom exacts brutal revenge on the man who took up with his ex-wife while Dom was in prison, Dom reteams with his old mate Dickie (Richard E. Grant), who lost a hand while Dom was away, not that the self-absorbed Dom even noticed. (Dom thought the glove on Dickie’s hand was a fashion choice — a trend he missed while in prison.)

Dom and Dickie journey to the South of France and the villa of Mr. Fontaine (Damien Bichir), the Russian crime boss Dom refused to testify against. Within minutes of his arrival, the drunken Dom is lusting after Mr. Fontaine’s Romanian temptress girlfriend (Madalina Diana Ghenea) and screaming insults in Mr. Fontaine’s face, demanding to be paid for his sacrifices. He’s an idiot.

After the first “I’m Dom Hemingway!” outburst, the subsequent bouts of madness lose their intensity and intrigue. We’re just watching Jude Law, who gained some 30 pounds for this role, acting his rear end off but also spinning his wheels in a story that never amounts to more than a collection of vignettes about Dom’s life after prison.

There are some moments of inspired craziness, as when a celebratory ride down a dark country road turns into a slow-motion symphony, or when Dom literally humps a safe as Dickie explains this time there’s actually a reason for Dom’s lunatic behavior.

Emilia Clarke, virtually unrecognizable from her “Game of Thrones” character, plays Dom’s daughter, who hasn’t seen him since she was a little girl. It’s a lovely performance in a small role, but how many times have we seen the story of the now grown-up daughter who resents her father for not being there for the bulk of her childhood?

Attempts to sprinkle the story with touches of whimsy and fate only make matters worse. When things start to turn for Dom, it rings as hollow as Dom’s promises to his daughter for all those years he missed.

Too late.


Twitter: @richardroeper

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