Lawless is the true(-ish) story of the Bondurant boys, a family of moonshine makers/bootleggers in Prohibition-era America. In Franklin County, Virginia, though, that was nothing special --- just about everyone either made their own moonshine or bought it from their neighbors. Heck, even the police buy moonshine. The Bondurants were different thanks to their reputation for toughness. Well, thanks to Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard's (Jason Clarke) reputation, that is. While those two have defied death and done things like punching Godzilla in the taint (I'm paraphrasing), their little brother, Jack (Shia LaBeouf) hasn't done much of anything. With his brothers being local legends, that means that little Jack has a chip on his shoulder and big shoes to fill. When the film begins, Jack's biggest problem is impressing a local girl and trying to make moonshine on his own.
|The secret ingredient is urine|
|But he looks so nice...!|
|Shia competes in the 200M Outdoor Shootout|
The acting in Lawless was uniformly good. Shia LaBeouf was the point of view character, but he was clearly not the most important character. Still, even though his character was kind of annoying and remarkably stupid at times, I thought LaBeouf handled the part well. All his actions made sense (for him) and LaBeouf's comic timing lightened up the film considerably. Tom Hardy was the true star, though. Hardy has great physical presence on the screen and his crazy eyes are some of the best in Hollywood right now. When you give him a part where he is supposed to intimidate people, he slips into it with ease. They even try to make him less threatening by having him wear sweaters all the time and speak in grunts, but he is still magnetic on the screen. It's rare to have a clearly violent character portrayed as a patient man, but Hardy manages to pulls it off.
|The world's deadliest cardigan fan, after Bill Cosby|
|You had me at "tommy gun"|
I've mentioned that John Hillcoat is known for his less than optimistic films. Part of that has something to do with him getting Nick Cave to write two of his films (including this one), but it is also a very deliberate choice on the part of Hillcoat. He has never been one for sentiment when depressing realism is available. That is what makes Lawless such a departure for him; it doesn't try to sear your soul. In fact, Hillcoat actually tries to play to the humor in the script.
|Ha ha! Jokes!|
|Two out of three brothers agree: rebound with alcohol|
Lawless is definitely a violent film, which naturally means that there are plenty of action scenes. The movie trailer makes it seem as if this is going to be a movie filled with gunfire, but the focus is instead on hand-to-hand combat. The most gruesome scenes involve knives, boots, and brass knuckles. For fans of gore, there are more than a few scenes where it looks like the fellow getting beat up will be picking his own teeth out of his crap over the next few days. The gunplay is fairly anticlimactic by comparison. Aside from Gary Oldman's tommy gun scene and Guy Pearce's powerful revolver, nothing cool ever happens with guns. That fits the tone of the film just fine, mind you. If you're looking for something that basks in gunfire like Tombstone or a John Woo movie, though, this may not be for you.
|Taking care of boo-boos is much easier than gunshot wounds|
The biggest problem with Lawless is the story itself. Hillcoat does a pretty good job, given the script, and Nick Cave's script is pretty engaging for being based on a true story. The focus is all wrong, though. At its core, Lawless is about greed and power (personified by Guy Pearce) infringing on freedom and principle (personified by Tom Hardy). Unfortunately, the main character was Shia LaBeouf's, and too much of the film centered on his attempts at romance and manhood.
|"You staring blankly reminds me of my last girlfriend. Do you know Megan Fox?"|