I’m Not Trying to Sell You Anything, But Jude Law Is

Jude Law, short film, photo, advertisement, Johnnie Walker Blue

Jude Law stars in The Gentleman’s Wager for JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL Blended Scotch whisky

It is not often I feel the need to do a post about an advert (or as Ralphie Parker* would say, “A crummy commercial”), but this one came to my attention today and while it may be simply because it stars Jude Law, whom I’ve been thinking about more than usual of late, but I find it so unusually impressive, I feel the need to talk about it.

The ad is nominally for Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which, if you’re going to drink a blend, as opposed to a single malt, this is a good one. I say nominally, however, because the makers of what can only be called a short film, are not doing the hard sell here.

The film has a title. It’s called A Gentleman’s Wager, and along with Law it stars Giancarlo Giannini (whom most of you probably know best as Rene Mathis, in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, which is too bad. It means you’ve missed, among other things, the films of Lina Wertmüller.)

The film tells the story of a wager between two men striving for personal progress through the quest for a truly rare experience. The Gentleman’s Wager sees Law in the role of a man who, despite having it all, challenges himself to strive for something he wants that money can’t buy. The film begins with Law and Giannini sipping Johnnie Walker Blue Label on a gorgeous hand-crafted boat as they look out across a stunning ocean seascape. We hear Law’s character state that he wants to buy the boat, but it is not for sale and the only way he can get it, is by putting on a truly unique performance. The wager begins.

What makes this short remarkable is its pedigree. Sure, there have been any number of high-profile advertisements in the past decade, featuring both A-list actors (Clive Owen, Brad Pitt) and directors (Guy Ritchie, Michael Mann), the latest of which was the “It’s Good to Be Bad” campaign for Jaguar featuring Mark Strong, Tom Hiddleston and Sir Ben Kingsley. But not many have the talent both onscreen and behind, that Johnnie Walker has assembled.

A Gentleman’s Wager is directed by Jake Scott. If the first name isn’t familiar, it probably will be soon, but the last name should be. He’s one of those Scotts. He’s the son of Sir Ridley and nephew of the late Tony. His own resume includes Welcome to the Rileys and Plunkett and Macleane (with Jonny Lee Miller and which I liked. Don’t judge) as well as a slew of big-name rock-docs.

It was shot in The British Virgin Islands, Caribbean and London by John Mathiason, who was the cinematographer on Ridley Scott films like Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood as well as Phantom of the Opera and X-Men: First Class. Production design was by Joseph Bennett, responsible for the look of HBO’s “Rome”. Costumes are by Scott regular Janty Yates, in conjunction with London bespoke mens outfitter, Mr. Porter. The film was produced by Jules Daly (The Grey, Assassination of Jesse James) and Tracie Norfleet of Scott Free.  That’s a lot of stops that were pulled.

Commenting on his role and involvement in the film, Law says: “The film is about improvement and progress and this is something I try to do in my work and my everyday life. I had to learn new skills shooting this film and that combined with the places we visited and shot in, alongside working with Jake and with Giancarlo, made it a truly rare experience.”

Take the above with a grain of salt or a slug of Johnnie Walker. I’m sure Mr. Law was paid a boatload of pounds sterling for his “rare experience”. Oh well. A Gentleman’s Wager is still a classy and entertaining little bit of footage.  And if it were up to me, I might give Jake a shot at the next Bond film. Whenever Sam Mendes decides to pack it in, of course.

*A Christmas Story (1983)

Jude Law Gets Hilariously Filthy in Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway, Jude Law, movie, poster, Richard Shepard, Richard E. Grant

Poster for dvd release of Richard Shepard’s Dom Hemingway with Jude Law

Dom Hemingway, a movie I’m almost certain you missed in the theaters, is out now on dvd and blu-ray. It’s about a Cockney safecracker of the same name, zealously played with bawdy, psychotic, raunchy, balls-out , go-for-broke bravado by Jude Law like you’ve never seen him before – and not just because he gained thirty pounds to play him. Dom is Bricktop from Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (sans pigs), if Ritchie were Francois Rabelais channeling Mickey Spillane.

Actually, Dom Hemingway sprang from the talented and slightly twisted mind of writer/director Richard Shepard, whose last movie, 2005’s The Matador, gave us Pierce Brosnan strolling across a hotel lobby in a Speedo and ankle boots.

After spending 12 years in prison for keeping his mouth shut, notorious safe-cracker Dom Hemingway is back on the streets of London looking to collect what he’s owed.

The story begins as we listen, likely in slack-jawed wonder, watching Law’s face in close-up, as Dom addresses the audience and delivers an ode to his favorite part of his anatomy. As the camera pulls back we realize he’s talking all the while being “serviced” by a faceless someone whom we come to recognize as a fellow inmate. It is a truly awesome monologue, an efflux of Shakespearean proportions, both epic and surreal, funny and jaw-droppingly filthy.

jude law, shirtless, movie, photo, dom hemingway

That stunning scene pretty much tells us what we’re in for as we follow this violent, poetic, hilarious, anachronistic gangster on his quest to get the money owed to him for not ratting out his boss… plus a present.

Then there’s Dom’s best friend, Dickie, played by the under-rated Richard E. Grant, as a toff in leisure suits and aviator shades, with a prosthetic hand. Dickie is at Dom’s right hand, observing everything and responding with a verbal or literal eye-roll, but we know instantly that this is just par for the course and there is deep affection between the two.

Dom: Fontaine better have a well-stocked bar.
Dickie: He was raised in a Russian orphanage and kills people for a living. Of course he has a well-stocked bar.

In fact, all of the characters, from the double-crossing Russian mobster Mr. Fontaine, played Demian Bichir (!) to Melody (Kerry Condon), whose life Dom saves in a rare moment of unselfishness, to an unrecognizable Emilia Clarke as Dom’s estranged daughter Evelyn, are very well drawn. The problem is that Dom is such a BIG character that everyone around him is dwarfed.

It’s a story we’ve seen play out countless times before with varying degrees of success, but a character like Dom, rarely. Shepard’s twist is the humor with which he tries to balance his main character’s amoral behavior. However, that we are not repulsed by Dom is, of course, down in part to the clever things Shepard has given him to say, but mostly it’s all Law, who manages to remain as charming as ever. He embodies every aspect of Dom, from the way he walks (more like swaggers bow-legged with hips thrust forward like a cowboy or porn star, usually with a cigarette plugged between his teeth), talks, swears, drinks, laughs, and cries with every bit of the bold presumptuousness needed to make the character come to life.

The movie ultimately can’t decide what it wants to be. Instead of letting Dom just “be”, Shepard sees the need to add a redemption plot to his otherwise slight tale of an ex-con looking for payback. Dom’s efforts to repair his relationship with his daughter, despite how good Clarke is, and how good Law is in the scenes with her son, feel tacked on. It really wasn’t necessary to give Dom any redeeming qualities when the reprobate is so much fun.

Dom Hemingway as a whole should not work, but amazingly it does, for the most part – including the striking and vibrant color palette, the soundtrack full of instantly recognizable classics by The Alarm, Primal Scream, Big Country, Pixies, Godfathers, Motorhead, and Citizen Cope, as well as a very sweet version of The Waterboys’ “Fisherman’s Blues” sung by Emilia Clarke, and a truly memorable car crash sequence – as long as you don’t ask too much from it.

If for nothing else, though, I recommend the film for Jude Law, who at 41 has eschewed “pretty boy” status for good and Dom Hemingway finds him at his very best.

Red-band trailer:

Dom Hemingway, written and directed by Richard Shepard, with Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Demian Bichir, Emilia Clarke, Kerry Condon, Jumayn Hunter and Madelina Ghenea, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 and is on dvd and blu-ray now.

Kick-Ass…My Impressions

It’s been a week since I saw Kick-Ass. I was trying to find a way, as I often do with much anticipated movies, to talk about it and say something that hasn’t already been repeated ad nauseum out in the blogosphere.

How many times does one need to read that "Kick-Ass kicks ass!"?? It does. In spades, it does.

It’s funny and violent and colorful and over-the-top. The kind of movie that makes you really glad you’re sitting in a crowded movie theater with 200 people all sharing the experience, rather than at home in your darkened living room.

Kick-Ass is not only a movie based on a comic book (sorry…graphic novel) but it is a comic book of a movie. If it is a "super hero movie" it’s one that doesn’t take itself seriously.  Unlike Spiderman and the Dark Knight films, which seem to aspire to no more than using their source material as a jumping off point, Kick-Ass is a live action version of the source material, a comic book come to life. Its big, bold primary colors harken back to the ’60s tv version of Batman (which may have inspired Nicolas Cage’s spot on impression of Adam West. Ironically, most of those who will line up to buy a ticket to Kick-Ass will not get the reference, though as it’s almost a given they are fans of Family Guy, they will recognize the speech patterns.) One can almost see each scene as a panel in a comic strip, complete with thought/speech balloons and Pow! Bam! and Socko! every time someone gets hit.

The young cast was terrific. I’m not sure I’d call Dave Lizewski Aaron Johnson’s break-out role. He was good, but I fear he’ll become more famous for impregnating his 42 yr old Nowhere Boy director at 19, than any part he ever plays. (I really want to see Nowhere Boy at some point.) Christopher Mintz-Plasse was also good but the only time one will not be reminded of "McLovin’" is when he’s doing voice-work, as in How to Train Your Dragon when the appearance of the character he voiced is as far from Christopher Mintz-Plasse as one could get.

I’m sure Matthew Vaughn despaired of ever finding a young girl who could carry off a character like Hit Girl. Boy, did he get lucky with Chloe Moretz. This kid has drawn comparisons to a young Jodie Foster, and rightly so; comparisons that have also been made with Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin. Both of those actresses are extremely talented and will hopefully be around as long as Jodie has, but neither of them has on their already impressive resumes a character as dark as Hit Girl/Mindy McCready. If Scorcese were making Taxi Driver today, I think Mindy and Iris would have a lot to talk about. (Speaking of Scorcese, Moretz has the lead in his new film "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", currently in post and due out next year)

By now, everyone interested knows about the infamous use of the "c" word. I am personally not a fan of this word. While it may stem from middle English and its use goes back to at least Chaucer, its modern connotation is nothing but derogatory. If I had seen this movie before all of the hype surrounding the one fleeting utterance of this word, I may have been a little bit more outraged. As it was, I was waiting for it. And while it is a manifestation of the wacky mindset of this 11 yr old girl, it’s really not that big a deal, IMHO. This kid is a miniature adult, a violent and aggressive adult. Everything one sees her do or say is shocking.

As for the actual adults, Matthew Vaughn has filled in the edges of his movie with some really good character actors. Some he’s worked with in the past, like Dexter Fletcher and Jason Flemyng, others equally recognizable like Michael Rispoli, all playing variations on mob goons.

I haven’t liked Nicolas Cage in years and he’s terrific as Big Daddy, (see above) but for me, however, the highlight of the film was Mark Strong’s Frank D’Amico. I don’t know what I can say here that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. A lot of superlatives have been heaped on this performance and I would only be redundant if I repeated them all now. Oh wait… here’s one…SEXY AS ALL HELL! Long and lean, stalking cat like through the film in those perfectly draped suits and expertly tailored trousers (Hell, I should be writing for ClothesOnFilm) all tightly coiled menace… One of his best villains yet, and with a canon of villains like his, that’s saying something.

God bless and keep Sammy Sheldon, the BAFTA award winning costume designer who also did Stardust among others, who put this man in those fantastic colors. It should be written into every contract for every role he ever takes in the future that he must wear a red shirt at least once.

(would that I had a pic of the red shirt…*swoon*…)

Matthew Vaughn has made three movies. Three. Each better than the last. Personally I can’t wait to see what he’s on to next.

(Oh and memo to self: Write Matthew Vaughn and ask him to talk his good friend Guy Ritchie out of casting Brad Pitt as Moriarty.)

Sherlock Holmes II: The Return of Mickey

The first one isn’t even out yet and already I know the Brad Pitt rumor isn’t gonna die until the sequel hits the theaters. The interwebs went crazy again today with the news that there is, in fact, a sequel planned for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. (I’ve got news for you, if the first one doesn’t deliver, there’s no guarantee it’ll get made. RocknRolla anyone? Ritchie’s already written the sequel. Since the original made less than $1 million domestically for its AMERICAN producers-the same producers of Sherlock by the way-I wouldn’t hold my breath on that despite the fact that it did relatively well in Europe and the original cast is willing.)

In any case, this news meant that the Pitt rumors immediately started to recirculate. I really, really, really, hope they are not true. (Chances are they are not. It’s probably a cleverly conceived marketing ploy. According to imdb, Pitt’s got 14 projects currently in development. I don’t know how many of those he’s acting in.) Although I bought him as Pikey boxer Mickey in “Snatch” and I almost bought him as Aldo Raine in “Inglourious Basterds”, for the most part all I see in whatever he’s in, is Brad Pitt. Time will tell. In the meantime I’m really looking forward to Ritchie’s take on the Holmes/Watson relationship. Not to mention Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood!! Yeah baby!

Sherlock Holmes Sequel In Development, Brad Pitt In Discussions To Play Moriarty? | /Film

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Ritchie’s Holmes still on track for December 25

Curiouser and curiouser

EXCLUSIVE: Guy Ritchie Confirms Moriarty For ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ Says Nothing About Brad Pitt

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I’m betting this will turn out to be no more than a cameo (and there is now so much denial swirling about the interwebs, I wouldn’t be surprised if it DID turn out to be Brad Pitt) during the end credits; just enough to set up the sequel.


edit 9/13 to add vid link:

relevant to the above, not to mention Mark Strong looks AMAZING!