The normally small-and-pointy-beaked Guy Pearce wears a prosthetic nose in The Hard Word, and it's remarkable how much it transforms him; he looks at once cruder and meaner. With his stringy long hair combed straight back, and his eyes glittering with leonine hunger, he resembles a more sinewy Fisher Stevens. Playing a hardened convict, Pearce has taken on the dour, snaky air of a man programmed to strike first and ask questions later. His survivalist smolder is never less than intense, though he has brought it to the wrong movie. ''The Hard Word'' is an Australian crime caper that's one part ''Sexy Beast,'' one part ''The Full Monty,'' and three parts very flat soda.
It's hardly the film's fault that it's perhaps the 27th heist flick to come out in the past year, but ''The Hard Word'' never settles on a tone. Pearce plays the leader of the Twentyman Brothers, a trio of armed robbers who are sprung from prison by their rat-fink lawyer (Robert Taylor) to perform a job. They carry it off, they're tossed -- at the lawyer's behest -- back into the brig, and then he tries to con them all over again. That this overobvious cad is also sleeping with Pearce's wife, played by ''Six Feet Under'''s Rachel Griffiths, is as much of a contrivance as Griffiths' illegally blond hauteur. ''The Hard Word'' is an ungainly and repetitive contraption, and Pearce's cohorts, played by Damien Richardson and Joel Edgerton, are the kind of ''charmingly'' clueless mates who could start to give Aussie geniality a bad name.