Lawless: Review

4 Sep

Based off the book The Wettest County in the World, Lawless follows the Bondurant brothers – Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) – who run a moonshine business in Virgina during the prohibition era. Despite having a friendly working relationship with the police, the brothers are threatened by deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) who want a cut of their profits or to shutdown their operation down completely.

Guy Pearce is almost unrecognizable with dark hair, a strangely high pitched laugh, virtually no eyebrows and fancy tailor-made suits. That being said he’s in full crazy mode for this role. Bloody and graphic fight scenes dominate the movie – the most horrendous scenes are when Pearce is killing or torturing his enemies in gruesome and unpredictable ways. Vicious, vindictive and creepy, Pearce deserves at least an Oscar nod for his role.

Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke’s performances are quiet and solid as the two oldest Bondurant brothers. Hardy’s character deliberately lacks intensity compared to his other roles as Bane and Bronson. His character is always steady and provides guidance to his thoughtless and reckless younger brothers.

Shia LaBeouf plays the timid and weak youngest brother Jack. Regardless of his shortcomings, Jack’s committed to becoming a real gangster like his idol, Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). Surprisingly enough, LaBeouf does a decent job as the black sheep of the family. Usually LaBeouf fills me with disdain considering his other roles are horrible or downright ridiculous, yet John Hillcoat managed to make LaBeouf somewhat sympathetic, which is no easy task.

Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman have minor roles that don’t seem worthy of them. Why pay for top celebrities, when anyone could play the role?

Director John Hillcoat previously adapted The Road for the big screen and Lawless is only his second big budget movie. Hillcoat balances out the intense and excessive violence with short funny moments, e.g. when Jack desperately tries to avoid Bertha’s (Mia Wasikowska) preacher father and Forrest replying with mhhmm in serious and scary moments.

In spite of all the talented actors and cringe worthy shootings and bloody fights, Lawless is lacking momentum. There never seems to be any urgency to get rid of deputy Rakes even after he injures or kills some of the brothers’ friends and family. The film never really seems to build to a final intense fight scene, rather there’s a series of violent scenes littered throughout.

Lawless is worth seeing for Guy Pearce’s performance, but don’t expect an outlaw picture that rivals Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or a period epic like The Godfather. Take the movie for what it is – an entertaining action adventure.

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