Writer/director Erick Zonca ("The Dream Life of Angels") throws himself on the sword of Cassavetes with an absurd anguish that's interpreted with a vengeance by Tilda Swinton as Julia Harris, a middle-aged Los Angeles alcoholic wack job. "Julia" is more than an homage to John Cassavetes' 1980 maternal crime thriller "Gloria;" it is a spectacularly flawed genre experiment that goes so wrong with such an intense fury that you can't pull yourself away from it. Swinton's socially derailed character buys into a ridiculous plan hatched by Elena (Kate Del Castillo), a mentally-challenged woman Julia meets at an alcoholics anonymous meeting. Elena wants Julia to help her kidnap her eight-year-old son Tom (Adian Gould) from his millionaire grandfather. Dollar signs flash in Julia's eyes and she kidnaps the boy without Elena's participation in order to extort two million dollars from the grandfather. The story jumps the shark when Julia smashes her car through the border into Mexico and has to negotiate with Tijuana gangsters there who have their own plans for kidnapping Tom. Twenty minutes shy of three hours, "Julia" is an art house train wreck of mammoth proportions. The irony is that Tilda Swinton's beautifully ugly tour de force performance makes the whole thing worthwhile. Try explaining this movie to your friends.
(Magnolia Pictures) Rated R. 138 mins. (C+) (Two Stars)