Lawless (2012)

As a self-admitted fan of the ‘gangster’ (not gangsta!) genre, I was intrigued when the first whispers of this ‘based on a true story’ flick came to light. John Hillcoat is a relatively new Aussie director who’s blossoming career I’ve been following with interest. The first film of his that I saw was his bleak Aussie ‘Western’, The Proposition (2005), starring Guy Pearce, Danny Huston, Ray Winstone and Emily Watson. Once I’d gotten used to the ‘patient’ pacing and the sudden bursts of gory violence, I really saw the gritty ‘art’ in it. After that, it was the ‘spot-on’ (and fucking depressing) adaptation of Cormac McCarthys laugh-fest The Road (2009). By this point, I’d begun to notice a certain realism and cinematic ‘maturity’ to his work, so when word of this story of ‘hillbilly moonshiners going head-to-head with scary and determined outside forces, over their less than legal livelihood’, I was intrigued. For those in need of more details, Lawless focus’ on three brothers of very different characters and temperaments who brew up their own hooch for local sale around rural Virginia circa 1931. Trouble starts when organized crime/police corruption moves in for a slice of the hooch pie. My interest climbed even more when I took note of the cast. Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy and some dude named Jason Clarke play the 3 Bondurant Brothers, fending off menace from Gary Oldman and a creepy Guy Pearce. The rough and bloody odyssey of these backwoods siblings is also sprinkled with an effective dose of romance in the forms of Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska; a pair of women who have their lives forever altered by their liaisons with two of The Boys. The story, written by the darkly wacky Aussie folk singer Nick Cave is effective, well-paced and simple, which may seem like an odd compliment, but the ‘straight-forwardness’ of the plot was surprisingly welcome. It should be noted that this flick is NOT for the squeamish. There is some brutal violence splashed across the screen here, with a couple bloody beatings, a castration, a ‘tar and feathering’ and one of the most horrific throat cuttings I’ve seen in quite a while. My skin crawled as the scene played out. Ugh! It’s a shame that Shia The Beef has had the stink of Michael Bays Transformer franchise ground into him because he ponies up a solid turn as the youngest, ‘upstart’ brother. Seeing him good and bloodied was somewhat satisfying , I will admit. Tom Hardy brings a disciplined gruffness to his role as the Natural Leader of the trio and all his scenes carry a certain ‘gravity’ to them. The real ‘stand-out’, however, is definitely Guy Pearce, popping up as an eyebrowless reptile of a ‘dandy’, with a thirst for viciousness and triumph. He’s a dangerous and vile character that Pearce injects with just enough perversion to make you itch for a terrible end to his existence. Another admirable element is the careful attention to period detail. The sets, locations and props are have a well-worn authenticity to them that puts the viewer into rural Virginia ala ’31. If you happen to be a fan of mature drama or of the gangster genre, Lawless is a solid bet and is well worth the time.


2 thoughts on “Lawless (2012)

  1. Spot on lad, spot on! You say it much better than I have. I especially like “…he ponies up a solid turn…”. I think you writing has improved a little too…I’m taking notes. Cheers!

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