DIRECTED BY: John Hillcoat
STARRING: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman
RATING: 3.5 stars

It seems Lawless will go down as a film you either love or hate. At least it's a film people care enough to talk about and have an opinion on. For me, Lawless is a very impressive film. It's a different look at the prohibition era, which Hollywood seems to love making films about. It's also about family, loyalty and a brotherhood. The screenplay was also written by Nick Cave so you're sure to enjoy the dialogue and the slow and steady pace of the film. Like a fine wine, I think this film will be appreciated more upon reflection and with time.

The film is based on the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant. Set in 1931 in Franklin Country, Virginia, USA, Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) runs a bootlegging business with his crazy brother Howard (Jason Clarke) and their little brother Jack (Shia LaBeouf). They are also helped by lovable “cripple” Cricket Pane (Dane DeHaan). The business turns violent when the brothers refuse to allow corrupt policeman to join the racket, forcing a standstill with federal agent Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). Meanwhile, Jack is trying to court Bertha (Mia Wosikowska), who is the daughter of a preacher, and Forrest is trying to protect former dancer Maggie who recently moved to the country to get away from the violent city life only to find herself caught up in the Bondurants' feud.

Some have argued that certain actors have been underutilised but I thought the cast was fairly good. Perhaps Gary Oldman could have been used more but his role as the ruthless Floyd Banner was still pivotal. I've never been much of a fan of LaBeouf but he was quite good in his role, especially considering the story centres on him and his actions and the way his character grows. Chastain also has some good emotional scenes and DeHaan will make you sympathise with his character. But it is Pearce and Hardy who give the best performances. Pearce was suitably slimy and creepy. Some may be put off by his cartoon-like mannerisms but I thought he played the character well as a weak and hideous man hiding behind his authority. Hardy also stands out as the tougher, older brother. He spends most of his time grunting and pouting but it's perfect for his character.

The cinematography is also fantastic in this film and the music is effective. My main criticism was for the shoot-out scene towards the end. It seemed clunky and didn't quite work. I also thought the love story between Jack and Bertha dragged on. My other concern was with the ending, which seemed to take on a different tone to the rest of the film. While most of it was dark, violent, gruesome and serious, the end became a comedy. However, upon further reflection, I felt like the film was somewhat whimsical and fantastical with the “immortal” legend surrounding the three brothers so perhaps the comedic ending wasn't entirely out of place. I think if I re-watched the film I might appreciate it more.


  1. Tom Hardy is the man in this flick but the one who really runs away with it all is Guy Pearce who has never ever been as vicious as he is here. Everybody else here is great too, but he’s the one who steals the show, in my opinion. Nice review Angie.


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