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Let us now praise Jude Law

Jude Law hit the headlines this week for suing the British tabloid The Sun and its defunct sister The News of The World for allegedly hacking his cell phone while he was in New York.

As a citizen I applaud him -- and as a movie critic I think it's about time to see Law again in a heroic light.

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Law is one of those gifted actors and natural stars who appeared to weary his public because of sleazy tabloid headlines and (perhaps) the sheer ubiquity of his presence in the middle part of the last decade.

The Jude Law screen role that most closely fit the news this week was his Jack Burden, the angst-ridden former newspaperman in the misbegotten remake of "All the King's Men." Unfortunately, as Burden he was as boring as the movie.

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But Law has frequently been terrific, starting with his mulish "P.R. geek" and bodyguard to a cutting-edge game creator in David Cronenberg's "eXistenZ."

He contributed the only real life to Steven Spielberg's "A.I." as a robot gigolo who was like a sprier, more lubricated, Gene Kelly version of the Tin Man -- he gave a tensile underpinning to his most liquid moves, and when he danced he was as kicky as an eccentric spring-driven toy.

He brought an adrenaline rush every time he showed up in the moribund "Road to Perdition" as an assassin who took WeeGee-like photos of corpses - often his own victims - as a sideline. Law pulled off that role with the rabid grace and avidity of a feral cat.

And he was at his very best in his most traditional heroic role: that of a Soviet sharpshooter during the Battle of Stalingrad in "Enemy at the Gates."

In "Enemy at the Gates," he starts out as nature's nobleman: modest, resolute, and candid. He grows to embody wised-up honesty. That quality might come off as a Second World War relic - were it not for Law.

Law smartly seizes on any hint of insecurity or weakness and plays this champion quietly, with emotions tightly reined in. Law makes him frank to a fault, too quick to wonder whether his key Nazi opponent is a better sniper than he.

Is there any character more refreshing in our showboat era than a hero who doesn't know his own strength? Law often has the same valor as an actor that his character in "Enemy at the Gates" has as a sharpshooter.

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