Which is exactly what happens in Richard Shepard’s “Dom Hemingway.” Its eponymous character, played with Homeric bigness by Jude Law, is determined to dominate all that surrounds him, exerting his Dom-ness over characters that, from even a passing acquaintance, seem more interesting than our Dom.
But Shepard — whose fondness for large-sized criminals gave some comic energy to 2006’s “The Matador” starring Pierce Brosnan as a flamboyant hit man — alas is in love with his character. And true love, as they say, is blind.
Blind to the fact that there is nothing inherently interesting about this petty London safecracker and hedonist Dom Hemingway other than his odd name and overbearing manner. Maybe “interesting” is the wrong word; noticeable is more like it.
You do notice him. You just wish you hadn’t.
Dom is getting out of stir after a dozen years and seemingly wants to inhale all of life in a single gulp. It’s booze, broads and blow with his best mate, Dickie (Richard E. Grant), for three days in London, then off to the south of France to claim a considerable recompense from crime boss Fontaine (Mexican actor Demian Bichir) since he never once ratted him out while in prison.
Despite a slew of drunken insults hurled at the gracious but deadly host and crude insinuations about his exotic mistress, Paolina (Romanian model and actress Madalina Ghenea, pictured right), the boss takes this uncouth guest in stride. And he does indeed reward the ex-con.
Dom then gets drunk again and instigates an absurd accident that ruins his plans and his finances. Realizing that Paolina has absconded with his money, Dom can only return to London with faithful Dickie in tow to pursue his former occupation despite the increase in sophistication of contemporary safes.
Suddenly remembering that he has a daughter, Evelyn (Emilia Clarke), by a wife who died of cancer while he was in prison, he tries to make amends and woo her back into daughter-hood.
But she’ll have none of it. She is rightly disgusted with his behavior her entire life and wants him to keep away from her and her son.
Desperate for cash, he makes a loser’s bet with a pint-sized black gangster Lestor (Jumayn Hunter), his erstwhile enemy, that he can crack a high-tech safe within 10 minutes or, failing that, suffer emasculation with the single flash of a sharp knife.
If anything, the movie gets even more ridiculous after this bet but the point is you have no stake in any of Dom’s misadventures since nothing about him compels the least bit of interest. He is pathologically self-destructive, cares nothing for anyone else and wallows in a lethal combination of exaggerated pride and self-pity.
A disheveled Law is all by hidden behind bad teeth, a jailhouse paunch, lamb-chop sideburns and a facial scar as he strides through the movie sucking all the air out of it. It’s a bravura performance that spends more time calling attention to itself than ever adding up to anything.
By the looks of things, Dickie, Fontaine, Lestor, Evelyn and certainly Paolina — who makes a less than credible reappearance late in the movie — are potentially more charismatic individuals than Dom.
None gets a chance to display his wares, as it were, since the movie loves only Dom. You would think his last name were Pérignon, not Hemingway.
Yet Dom remains an artificial construct, never the least bit real or empathetic, rather a creature of fiction and an implausible one at that.
Opens: April 4, 2014 (Fox Searchlight)
Production companies: Fox Searchlight Pictures & BBC Films present a Recorded Picture Company presentation in association with Isle of Man Film, Hanway Films, Pinewood Pictures and Jeremy Thomas
Cast: Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter, Madalina Ghenea, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
Director/screenwriter: Richard Shepard
Producer: Jeremy Thomas
Executive producers: Steve Norris, Peter Watson, Zygi Kamasa
Director of photography: Giles Nuttgens
Production designer: Laurence Dorman
Music: Rolfe Kent
Costume designer: Julian Day
Editor: Dana Congdon
R rating, 93 minutes