“Come on Jack, just pull the damn trigger.” That’s the opening line, which brings you in to a world where the Bondurant brothers are not to be messed with.
Based on a true story and adapted from the novel by Matt Bondurant (notice the last name), Lawless tells the story of a bootlegging family in the hills of Virginia in the 1930s. Moonshine flows, death lurks, and a quiet arrogance oozes out of every pore of the Bondurant brothers. Forrest (Tom Hardy) believes they are untouchable, and you’re right there with him, rooting them on.
Deputy Rakes … sorry, Special Deputy Rakes (Guy Pearce) comes to town to gain control and kickbacks, but Forrest doesn’t take kindly to strangers from the big city coming down to these here parts and interfering. He doesn’t have the same issue with Maggie (Jessica Chastain) when she comes from Chicago, but can you blame him? Chastain once again fits perfectly in a period piece.
The set and costume design are flawless, which you would expect from director John Hillcoat. He did wonders with creating a bleak, depressing atmosphere with The Road and continues to control his environment with Lawless.
With an amazing cast of characters, I was desperate to spend more time with Hardy, and even more so with Pearce and Gary Oldman. There are also supporting roles from Dane DeHaan and Jason Clarke worthy of your attention. Instead, we eventually settle in and watch Shia LaBeouf’s Jack arrogantly enter manhood, while courting Bertha (Mia Wasikowska). There’s nothing wrong with these moments. In fact, it’s great to see LaBeouf back in a character-driven movie that doesn’t involve transforming machines. It’s just that Jack’s story isn’t the one you’ll be buzzing about when you leave the theater. I’m convinced there is 20 extra minutes of Oldman’s Floyd Banner just waiting for me on the future Blu-ray. Pearce could prove to be the most memorable, with mannerisms and a bizarre hair cut that make him such an oddly addictive character, you forget this is actually based on a true story.
Even though there is an arrogance to Forrest, it is a quiet one. He has a code and won’t get in your way, unless you get in his. Forrest’s simple grunts bring to mind Billy Bob Thornton’s Karl Childers. As yes, you even shed the issue of a character named Forrest. Also, both he and LaBeouf put on an accent, that while authentic, also had me occasionally wanting subtitles. Luckily, it’s not the words you want more of, it’s the gripping violence. Even though there are some killer lines from the cast like, “I ain’t the kind to drink from a greasy cup.”
You want Jack to find his manhood. You want Forrest to kill anyone who threatens his family. You want to stay in the hills of Virginia with a jar of moonshine spending more time with this entire cast showcasing America’s beautifully flawed past. When you have the chance to see this film in August, pull the damn trigger. 4.5 out of 5 stars
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