Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pierce, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Noah Taylor and Gary Oldman
Written by Nick Cave based on the novel by Matt Bondurant
Directed by John Hillcoat
New to theaters this week from Alliance Entertainment Canada is Lawless, a fictionalized accounting of the true story of the Bondurant brothers and their exploits bootlegging moonshine. The star-studded cast under director Hillcoat attempt to provide a prohibition era gangster epic, but do they succeed or go up in flames like a still set to blow?
In the mountains of Franklin County, Virginia, the Bondurant brothers are the stuff of legend: Howard (Clarke), the eldest, survived the war; Forrest (Hardy), the brains of the outfit, nearly died from the Spanish Flu that took his parents but gained a reputation of immortality due to his perseverance; and Jack (LaBeouf), the youngest, is impulsive, impetuous and eager to join the family occupation. Times are tough and jobs are scarce, but the Bondurants are entrepreneurs and have built a thriving local business by concocting an intense and popular brand of moonshine. But the arrival of Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Pearce) from Chicago threatens to derail their business. Corrupt as the day is long, the family rallies to fight Rakes, while Jack’s ambitions and enterprises alter the fortunes of the brothers’ affairs. With the help of friend Cricket (DeHaan), Jack starts to prosper, even selling moonshine to Floyd Banner (Oldman), the big city gangster he idolizes. And while two of the Bondurants are soon under the spell of two beautiful women: the exotic, steadfast Maggie (Chastain), and the quiet, pious Bertha (Wasikowska), Rakes intensifies his efforts resulting in deadly consequences for all.
Lawless is a solid outing, far from spectacular, but a fun, entertaining time at the multiplex. The script and dialogue are merely functional to drive the story along, although there are some genuinely hilarious moments. That said, there is a lot more fiction involved here than not – ‘based on a true story’ really should read ‘inspired by’. The set design looks and feels like a backlot the whole time, lending it a 70’s film feel that in retrospect may have been intentional, with a bar/house that looks like it came straight out of Silverado and other films of the like. The casting works to varying degrees. LeBeouf is clearly the weak link here, not necessarily because he’s awful, but his performance is just lacklustre. Hardy, as usual, really makes an effort to steal every scene and he succeeds with ease, managing to elevate the quality of the material and the movie as a whole with his presence. The supporting cast does decent work, with Pearce absolutely relishing his old school ‘moustache twirling’ bad guy archetype and DeHaan showing that he is really becoming someone to keep an eye on after this and his turn in Chronicle (one of my first reviews) earlier this year. Hillcoat’s direction is one of the other highlights here as the pacing is strong and the film moves at a refreshingly fast clip. Ultimately though, Lawless is the type of film you can safely walk out of not feeling as you’ve wasted you money on, but half an hour later you’ll be hard pressed to remember anything about it except for Hardy.
Lawless is ultimately far from the worst fare out in theaters right now, but it’s also easily forgettable. For a reasonable night out at the movies you could do far worse. Lawless is a mild recommend.
Lawless opens in theaters nationwide on today, Wednesday August 29th.
Till Next Time,
Movie Junkie TO
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