Friday, September 07, 2012

Lawless - Movie Review

Who's in it?

Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce & Jessica Chastain
What's it About? 

Lawless is an adaptation of the 2008, Matt Bondurant novel, The Wettest County in the World. Directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) it tells the story of the Bondurant brothers in Depression era Franklin County, Virginia. They run one of the most profitable moon shining businesses during prohibition, virtually unhindered until corrupt Special Agent Rakes (Pierce) arrives to intervene in the bloodiest way possible. 

Any Good?

Both stylish and engrossing, Lawless, is a clever balancing act between subtlety and shocking violence. Hillcoat weaves the tale of the infamous Bondurant brothers beautifully. Spoiled for choice in an ensemble cast though, a few of the characters seem to get lost in the melee. 

Hardy is exemplary as the no nonsense Forrest, the eldest of the brothers. His love for mandigans (Hardigans?) only bested by his love for the knuckleduster nestled in their woollen pockets. When not cracking skulls his southern drawl is perfected and punctuated with considered grunts and mutterings, his delivery deliberate and unsettlingly slow. 

Jason Clarke playing Howard is almost sidelined as the drunken, brawling middle sibling and completely overshadowed by Shia LeBoeuf the youngest Bondurant, Jack. His meek and unassuming ways are quickly transformed as he strikes a deal with the gangster of the day (Oldman) and he becomes cock of the walk. Strutting around Franklin parading his affluence as the country sinks deeper into depression. While I’m not relishing the thoughts of seeing the newly hirsute star having actual sex in his upcoming role, LeBoeuf's range in Lawless is just enough to make you forget his cheese and ham efforts in Transformers.

Maggie (Chastain) is stunning as the runaway dancer that happens upon Franklin County for refuge. Her style a starkly beautiful contrast to the minimalist living in the backward mountain town. There's a spark between Forrest and Maggie that ignites very slowly but I would have liked to see more. 

There has been talk of an Oscar nod for Hardy for his work here but I have to say Guy Pierce, as the corrupt Special Agent Rakes, would clinch it for me. He plays one of the vilest, most sadistic characters to cross the screen. Menacing and unhinged, he had my palms sweating on more than one occasion. 

Further character development on several players such as Oldman as the local gangster would have been rewarding, even so, we are treated to fully immersive story that regularly explodes with staggering violence with little or no notice. Nick Cave (writer of the screenplay and the soundtrack) said "a lot of the truly brutal stuff did not make it through into the film. In the book, you get lulled by the beautiful lyricism of the writing, then suddenly you are slapped in the face by a graphic description of a killing. I tried to be true to that as much as I could." If that's the case then dude done good. 

Gritty, compelling and at times laugh out loud funny, the true story of the Bondurant brothers' refusal to be cowed by corruption is one that I'd heartily recommend you get to see. It's an 18s rating and that's not for nothing, expect violence, some disturbing imagery and moonshine. Lots and lots of moon shine. 


1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Tom Hardy is the man in this flick but the one who really runs away with it all is Guy Pearce who has never ever been as vicious as he is here. Everybody else here is great too, but he’s the one who steals the show, in my opinion. Nice review.