Twelve years, as a caption at the start of this foul-mouthed, foul-tempered crime flick tells us, is a long time inside. And judging by safecracker Dom Hemingway’s (Jude Law) anger management issues, he didn’t get time off for good behaviour.
Locked up while cancer claimed his wife, Dom has also missed seeing his daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) grow up. And for what? So criminal boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir) could stay out of jail. So when Dom gets out, he wants what’s owed to him. Soon enough, he and old pal Dickie (Richard E. Grant, channelling the ghost of Withnail) head to Fontaine’s French mansion to collect some serious money.
Writer/director Richard Shepard, who tackled assassins in The Matador (2005) and war criminals in The Hunting Party (2007), is clearly at home in the underbelly and has a great ear for filthy dialogue.
In Law, he’s found an actor desperate to ditch the clean-cut image, pile on some pounds and swear his faaacking head off. And it’s a fully committed turn from the Sherlock Holmes star – who relishes every morsel of this meaty double-decker of a part.
The problem is, Dom Hemingway feels derivative – notably of Sexy Beast, with its mix of surreal humour, profane banter and edgy violence. And, sad to say, Dom is no Don Logan and Law is no Ben Kingsley.
There are moments to savour – notably a stand-out car crash – but Shepard never seems sure which direction he wants the film to take: revenge, rage or redemption? As Dom ponders how to change his luck, we flip from underworld odyssey to domestic drama, going straight in a way that just feels criminal.
Shepard’s film is fun but forgettable in the first hour, then disappointing in the final third. But Law’s raucous turn keeps you watching.