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Movie Review: 'Don Hemingway'

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Jude Law takes on the role of lawbreaker in the new film "Dom Hemingway." Owen Gleiberman filed the following review for NY1.

If ever there was an actor ripe to McConaughnesize his career, it's Jude Law. And guess what? He has now done it, spectacularly, in "Dom Hemingway."

He plays one of those seething low-rent blokes of an East End gangster whom we now think of as coming out of a Guy Ritchie film. It's a kick to see Law, who normally plays more civilized types, get his underworld thug on by embracing the role of a vicious Cockney criminal with greased-back hair, a double-muttonchop beard, and a glittery-eyed leer of sexual hunger.

Yet getting cast against type will take an actor only so far. The real amazement of "Dom Hemingway" is that, as written and directed by Richard Shepard, the film picks up this snarling hooligan and treats him like a character out of Shakespeare.

Dom's gutter eloquence has a touch of the poetic, and he's a beast with a beating heart. A notorious safe-cracker, he has just served 12 years after refusing to rat on his boss, and now, he wants his reward. So he teams up with his old crony, played by Richard E. Grant, the straight man for once, and drives up to the villa of a sinister Mr. Big, played by Demian Bichir, who pays his debt to Dom by gifting him with nearly 1 million pounds. But then, thanks to drugs and a car accident, Dom loses the money, and this sets up the film's ingeniously karmic, yin-and-yang version of a crime-caper plot.

Dom's luck keeps jerking back and forth, and the movie whiplashes between freedom and violent desperation, with each twist really asking, does Dom deserve to get what he wants?

Law makes Dom a brilliant contradiction. He's a violent piece of pond scum with a sense of honor, a bad man and a good man. And the question of which side will rule turns "Dom Hemingway" into the most mesmerizing drama of British lowlifery since "Sexy Beast."

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