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Movie Reviews






Released: 2012

Directed By: John Hillcoat

Starring: Shia Laboeuf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce

Certificate: 18

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Director John Hillcoat throughout his career has certainly had an eye for grim, bloodsoaked ensemble pieces. Fresh off the long and winding ‘Road’ with Viggo Mortensen, he’s swiftly drifted off track and found himself knee deep in Prohibition-era Virginia. Tackling the source material ‘The Wettest County In The World’ which compiled together true events of an infamous family, he presents his latest effort ‘Lawless’.

The family in question? The notorious Bondurants. Consisting here of the youthful but naive Jack (Shia Laboeuf), imposing man-mountain Forrest (Tom Hardy) and the slightly unhinged Howard (Jason Clarke), their illegal operation of producing and selling moonshine whiskey provides them with a lifestyle predominantly hassle free.

Unfortunately for the trio, they are soon uprooted from their comfort zones courtesy of agent Charley Rakes’ emphatic arrival from Chicago, played by Guy Pearce. With a relentless mean streak and peculiar look (devoid of eyebrows), Rakes is determined to lay waste to their plans and to them personally, triggering a crimewave.

‘Lawless’ is most certainly a stylish production befitting of the period. The cinematography picturesque as the Virginia sun beats down on our A grade cast whilst the suits and dresses prove as sharp as the weapons of choice inflicting harm. However, aesthetically pleasing as the film is, Hillcoat’s storytelling doesn’t measure up in comparison proving rather unrefined. Throwaway romantic subplots clogging up the narrative’s promise of a ‘raging war’ in particular, has a direct and unhealthy effect on the film’s pacing which is uneven and jarring.

Shia Laboeuf’s Jack ‘anchors’ proceedings and with the delivery of his most well rounded and mature performance to date, he may finally shed the tag of just being the motormouth from ‘Transformers’. Pearce and Hardy rely on their overflowing intensity, one turn wonderfully exaggerated, the other unnervingly restrained.

Sparing a thought for the rest of the cast, Gary Oldman’s Floyd Banner is no more than a ‘cameo’ and Hillcoat’s handling of the female leads Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska is criminal, failing to instill substance to accompany the beauty they both exude.

‘Lawless’ nonetheless is a solid and bloodsoaked addition to the Hillcoat back catalogue. But with such glaring imperfections at its core, it never threatens to nail the true scale of a well documented era.

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