• No actor has mastered the art of muttering obscenities under his breath more expertly than Dennis Farina. In “Get Shorty,” “Snatch” and other films about low-life criminals, Farina, with his eagle-eyed glare, Charles Bronson-like mustache and clenched-teeth diction, has stolen every scene he’s in merely by spouting off an array of expletives. “The fucking airport,” he barks at a cab driver in “Get Shorty,” disgusted at being put upon to give simple directions. His every eyebrow twitch, stiff-necked shrug and sarcastic overemphasis on every word—as if he’s already explained what he’s saying three times—deliver the message: “I don’t give an inch for you—you give an inch for me.”

    Happily, Farina’s signature macho style is put to good use for much of “The Last Rites of Joe May.” But the film, directed and written by Joe Maggio, stretches Farina’s range to an unexpected level: for the first time, he’s showing genuine hurt and weakness, with astonishingly powerful results. Joe May certainly bears the same hostility and bitterness as Farina’s other characters, but he’s a man with a conscience, a soul, and his brooding takes on a tragic dimension.