JUDE Law is becoming a more interesting actor as he loses his looks. Or at least his hair.
It is a truth now universally acknowledged. The trailer to the coming sequel of Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s comedy travelogue, The Trip to Italy, features a lovely little gag about Law, who “hasn’t aged like you and I”. “Yeah, he’s got that really young, bald look,” Coogan snipes.
The 41-year-old began his career on the London stage and British television before the requisite breakthrough screen role in an independent crime drama, Shopping. Hindsight suggests cinema became enamoured more with his unfeasible good looks than his talent. He became eye candy in glossy, frothy Hollywood affairs, including Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Anthony Minghella’s Cold Mountain and Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.
He has two Academy Award nominations, for The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain, but it’s hard to recall a performance where Law really killed it (although he was rather good in Mike Nichols’s Closer in 2004).
Today, Law is acting the part of a 40something who doesn’t need magazine covers any more. His play with Robert Downey Jr in the disposable Sherlock Holmes series is light and contrasts successfully with his performance in Steven Soderbergh’s neat thriller Side Effects.
Now comes Dom Hemingway, a London gangster movie notable almost solely for Law’s swaggering performance. Imagine a lighter version of Tom Hardy as violent convict Bronson and you’ll come close to Law’s turn as the title character, an emotional cockney safecracker.
Dom Hemingway (MA15+, Paramount, 93min, $29.99) begins with a soliloquy about his, ahem, “cock” and then a beating that establishes his narcissism and short-fuse violence.
Writer-director Richard Shepard doesn’t turn over new narrative territory with his tale of a career crim returning to the streets after years in the can. But Shepard follows so many recent London crime films in thinking screen violence alone is an entertainment.
Rather, the violence is in Hemingway’s language, a fusillade of bons mots, profanity and sharp phrasing. Two colleagues, played by the reliable Richard E. Grant and restrained Demian Bichir, stand aside for Law, who growls in a pleasing package that includes vibrant production design, a punchy soundtrack featuring Big Country and the Pixies, and rich vistas, particularly in a French sojourn.
It becomes too sentimental with the addition of Dom’s daughter, Evelyn ( Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke), but it barely matters. Dom Hemingway is disposable and in service of one thing: Law’s performance. And that’s entertaining enough.
(MA15+) UniversalSony (121min, $39.95)
(G) Disney (98min, $39.95)
(M) eOne (98min, $29.99)
(M) Transmission (116min, $34.99)
The Railway Man