Dom Hemingway (R) (93 min.) — Jude Law's ferociously vulgar portrayal of a hard-luck safecracker carries the first hour of this amorality tale. Then writer-director Richard Shepard makes the creatively fatal mistake of making Dom Hemingway sympathetic, when irredeemable is much more fun.
Dom is a standup guy, serving 12 years in prison without incriminating the mastermind Ivan Fontaine (Demian Bichir), known as one of Europe's most dangerous criminals. This means nothing to Dom, who demands to be compensated for his silence, taunting Ivan to the brink of revenge. Law's character could be an accomplice of Ben Kingsley's memorable Sexy Beast, spewing vile threats and bloodily making good on them.
It's an electrifying performance, from Dom's opening soliloquy praising his sexual apparatus through a series of violent and degenerate behaviors. Looking beefier, without his usual privileged charm, Law rips into Dom's debauchery with gusto. Shepard managed the same sort of image demolition with Pierce Brosnan in The Matador, in effect making the source of the portrayal as shocking as the material.
The situation with Ivan gets messily settled, with a loose end to which Shepard could pay more attention, rather than the estranged family pathos Dom wanders into. That third-act detour also squeezes out Dom's skittish sidekick Dickie Black, played by Richard E. Grant. Worst of all it strips away the frightening intensity of Law's performance, the movie's true strength. B- (Various locations)