Lawless Review (Kirk Haviland)

Lawless (2012)

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?

Photo courtesy of Alliance Pictures

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.

Photo courtesy of Alliance Pictures

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.

Photo courtesy of Alliance Pictures

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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Thoughts on a Tragedy and the Dark Knight Rises Review

On a day that is supposed to be one of celebration for movie-going fans across the globe with the release of one of the most highly anticipated films of 2012, it is actually one of sadness as a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado ended in bloodshed as an armed assailant killed 12 and injured 59 other people when he opened fire in a packed theatre.  The debate will undoubtedly rage on concerning topics of gun culture in the United States, violence in films & TV and may even range touch on the state of the global economy and the desperation that some people are feeling struggling to make ends meet.  Despite the 24 hour news cycle’s desperate attempt for answers there simply won’t be any because this is the act of a sick and deranged mind that wanted to share his anger with the world, what appears to be an evil and reasonless crime.  Do the sales and use of guns need to be better regulated in both the United States and Canada? Without a doubt, but when someone wants to do harm to an individual or a group of people they will usually find a way, and while I know that the thoughts of everyone here at Entertainment Maven are with everyone affected by this horrible act of violence, I just hope that this event doesn’t discourage anyone from doing what all of us here do when we are feeling a little down, or a little angry or just need a little bit of an escape…we go to the movies.

The Dark Knight Rises

Starring Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and Tom Hardy

Co-written & Directed by Christopher Nolan

It has been eight years since Batman (Bale) vanished into the night, turning in that instant from hero to fugitive as he decided to assume the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent. The Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act, however everything soon changed with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) with a mysterious agenda who has targeted a now reclusive Bruce Wayne. However, far more dangerous is the emergence of Bane (Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile.  Even though he ultimately decides to don the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane and could be forced to give everything he has to save Gotham.

To put it simply this is a stunning and epic end to a trilogy that is draped in emotion and the necessary dread of the times that these characters are living in.  Christopher Nolan uses the sweeping vistas and immaculate shots provided by him through the use of shooting a fair portion of the film in IMAX, creating this universe in as grand a way as he possibly could, as endings like this were never meant to be small.  The story which despite being a touch overloaded with distinct and unique characters was incredibly refreshing as it never gave itself an out or an excuse to think that maybe there could be more, everything is wrapped up in an incredibly efficient and emotionally effective way making this a definitive ending.  Nolan raises the drama of everything in this film to all new stakes, as he truly ends things on his terms, and so often in Hollywood blockbuster type films we get treated to unsatisfying, open-ended endings just in case they want to make a movie. Nolan has crafted a true trilogy that we can all accept and be happy with due to its grand and epic nature of the visuals along with some emotionally balanced performances to bring it all home.

As we see Bale all these years later, he is ultimately a broken shell of the man that he once was in The Dark Knight, and as we see him climb back up that ladder to regain his former confidence and skills, Bale takes on a journey where Bruce Wayne learns the ultimate meaning of humility and self sacrifice while re-assembling his life by means of saving Gotham from the threat of Bane.  Tom Hardy makes a fantastic bad guy as Bane, as he oozes pure dread and evil on the screen, matching Bale’s Batman scene for scene.  As the elusive Selina Kyle, Anne Hathaway was reasonably effective as the not quite bad, yet not quite good ‘cat burglar’ who Wayne found as an intriguing kindred spirit. They had very good chemistry.  The rest of the ensemble was loaded with strong performances from returning cast members like Gary Oldman and Michael Caine as well as new faces like Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. However, the film revolved around Bale & Hardy as they commanded the screen every time they were on it.

The one real emotion I have coming out of seeing The Dark Knight Rises is one of resolution.  This trilogy ended in such a satisfying way that it is a credit to Nolan as a storyteller to give the iconic character of Batman/Bruce Wayne the send off that he deserve – that is until the unfortunate reboot that we will undoubtedly get in 2018.

The Dark Knight Rises is playing at theatres all across the city of Toronto as well as the globe, check with your local listings for show times.

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