Lawless Movie Review

Director Hillcoat and musician-turned-screenwriter Cave previously worked together back home in Australia on the dark Western The Proposition, and now they have reunited in America for this true story set during Prohibition in the early 1930s. Unsurprisingly, it plays out like a Western. And it also features two of The Proposition's memorable actors, Pearce and Taylor.

The story centres on the three Bondurant brothers in rural Virginia. Eldest sibling Forrest (Hardy) runs the family moonshine business with middle brother Howard (Clarke). But the younger Jack (LaBeouf) wants in on the action and secretly teams up with whiz-kid Cricket (DeHaan) to speed up production and sell their wares to a big-city gangster (Oldman). Then slimy city-slicker Federal Agent Rakes (Pearce) arrives, determined to stop bootlegging no matter who he has to torture and kill. Meanwhile, a sexy barmaid (Chastain) with a shady past arrives to distract Forrest, while Jack daringly woos the rebellious daughter (Wasikowska) of the local preacher.

Yes, there are a lot of characters in this film, and they interlink together on a variety of levels that makes the film feel almost literary in the way it approaches the story and themes. Indeed, it's based on the acclaimed historical novel The Wettest County in the World, written by Matt Bondurant, Jack's grandson. And the detail in the characters makes each of these people utterly riveting. All of them are caught in a moral dilemma, dodging official rules that are hindering their lives, and Rakes represents the strong arm of the system trying to crush them. It's probably no surprise that Pearce never really tries to make this vile character even remotely sympathetic.

Hardy is terrific in the lead role, deploying that Bane physicality in a quietly intense way that's sometimes even more terrifying than it was in The Dark Knight Rises. And Chastain is also impressive with her fiery internal toughness. Hillcoat and Cave ground even the film's most grisly moments in honest realism, with textured photography and music (by Cave and Warren Ellis) that adds to the mythological feel of a film that is itself about the creation of a lasting legend that might not be completely true. A fascinating, fiercely haunting movie.

Rich Cline

Cast & Crew

Director : John Hillcoat

Producer : Michael Benaroya, Megan Ellison, ,


Comments

Lawless Rating

" Extraordinary "

Rating: 18, 2012

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