Jude Law leaps off the screen in "Dom Hemingway" as if he were in 3-D and the rest of the movie in 2-D.
He gives it his all as a Cockney gangster, gaining 20 pounds, shucking his clothes at one point, slicking back his hair, donning nicotine-stained teeth and even a device to give his nose a broken kink.
Dom (Mr. Law) is a safecracker who spent 12 years in prison rather than rat out his rich mobster boss, Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir). But in those dozen years, his wife fell gravely ill and took up with another man and his daughter grew up without him.
Starring: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir.
Rating: R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use.
Once he's sprung, though, he and criminal confederate Dickie (Richard E. Grant) head for the French estate occupied by Fontaine -- real name Ivan Anatoli -- so Dom can collect his reward for his silence. But Dom is Dom, volcanically angry at times, often drunk and admitting, "I'm a crazy man, I'm a ... nutter."
Yes, he is.
He takes drinking and driving to new highs and deadly lows, makes a bet in which he puts his physical manhood on the line, and tries to make amends with his daughter, who is having none of it. But despite his insistence that "misfortune befell me" -- and plenty of criminal behavior with it -- he might be able to tap into a reserve of good luck due him.
"Dom Hemingway" is a cheeky black comedy from writer-director Richard Shepard, who made the dark comic drama "The Matador," starring Pierce Brosnan as a hit man. That character paradoxically was named Julian Noble; here, Dom Hemingway eschews Ernest Hemingway simplicity for embroidered pronouncements.
Take his assessment of his hangover, thanks to two women and some cocaine upon his release from prison: "I did too much, Dickie. I made up for too much lost time. I [expletive] myself to death. My head's gonna explode. There's gonna be bits of my brains everywhere. I'm going to ruin your blazer."
Everything is larger than life in "Dom Hemingway," from an opening boast about genitalia to the depth of the anger of Dom's daughter.
"Dom" is a showcase, pure and simple, for Mr. Law, who seems like a distant relative to his dull cuckolded husband in "Anna Karenina" or doctor in "Side Effects" or Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes adventures. Dom is a nasty bit of business until he lets his guard down, but he is the movie, with the others relegated to supporting roles in every sense.
It doesn't add up to much except what Mr. Law can do when robbed of his trim shape and natural good looks. He can act.
Opens today at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.