A temperamental, egotistical, British ex-con with a soft side for the daughter he left behind, Jude Law is magnetic as the title character in "Dom Hemingway," an amusing tale of vengeance, debauchery, and redemption told stylishly by writer-director Richard Shepard.
Fresh out of prison after serving 12 years, so reads the first of many chapter cards, Dom and his partner-in-crime, Dickie Black (an amusingly dry Richard E. Grant), head to the lavish home of his boss, Mr. Fontaine (the equally charming and ruthless Demian Bichir). Dom refused to rat out the crime boss and he's come to collect for his good deed. But before he can walk away with his hefty gift, a brush with death – effectively displayed in slow motion – leaves him empty-handed.
Broke, bloody and liquored up, Dom shows up at his daughter's doorstep hoping she'll welcome him with open arms. But Evelyn (Emilia Clarke of "Game of Thrones" as a redhead), now living with her significant other and their son, is less than impressed with her father. And so begins his quest to win back her affection, while dipping back into a life of crime to try to make a bit of change. Luckily, he's still an expert when it comes to opening safes.
Dom is one of Law's richest roles yet. He packed on an extra 20 pounds and rocked thick lamb-chop sideburns for this one. He's brazenly comical, absurdly grimy and believably brawny. But at times, his Dom is ridiculously unsympathetic. He bloodies the face of a man who romanced his wife during his jail sentence, but we discover that man cared for her as she died of cancer.
As Dom is unable to piece his life back together, especially where Evelyn is concerned, his snarling arrogance subsides and he begins to succeed at getting us to feel sorry for him. We also take cues from his adorable grandson (Jordan A. Nash), who seems content just sitting next to Dom.
The same writer-director behind the crime comedy "The Matador," Shepard writes with rousing wit, but occasional scenes tend to drag and feel excessive.
It's the film's humor that also makes Dom likable. Many of the blows to his ego are due to his droll naivety. But it's a good look for Law, who checks his pretty boy image at the door to give one of his grittiest performances yet.