Locked up while cancer claimed his wife, Dom has also missed seeing his daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clarke) grow up. And for what? So criminal boss Mr. Fontaine (Demian Bichir) could stay out of jail. So when Dom gets out, he wants what's owed to him. Soon enough, he and old pal Dickie (Richard E. Grant) head to Fontain's French mansion to collect some serious money.
Writer/director Richard Shepard, who tackled assassins in The Matador (2005) and war criminals in The Hunting Party (2007), is clearly at home in the underbelly and has a great ear for filthy dialogue.
In Law, he's found an actor desperate to ditch the clean-cut image, pile on some pounds and swear like a docker. And it's a fully committed turn from the Sherlock Holmes (2009) star – who relishes every morsel of this meaty double-decker of a part.
Frustratingly, Dom Hemingway feels derivative – most notably of Sexy Beast (2000) – with its mix of surreal humour, profane banter and edgy violence. For Dom is just another odious thug who supposedly becomes entertaining by virtue of his florid verbosity, while the nasty little world he inhabits receives some surreal/pop-art trimmings.
There are moments to savour, but Shepard never seems sure which direction he wants the film to take: revenge, rage or redemption? As Dom ponders how to change his luck, we flip from underworld odyssey to domestic drama, going straight in a way that just feels criminal.
Shepard's film is fun but forgettable in the first hour, then slightly disappointing in the final third. But ultimately it's Law's raucous turn that keeps you watching.