Running Time: 116 minutes
Starring: Shia Labeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman
Directed By: John Hillcoat
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Three brothers are smuggling moonshine during prohibition. There business is about to run into some trouble as some new men in town want a cut of their action.
I was hoping this was going to be an origin story about Xena Warrior Princess. When I found out it was actually about moonshine running I wasn’t too upset though. I have never tried moonshine. Partly because I don’t want to go blind and partly because I don’t live in BF nowhere. Set in Virginia, Lawless is based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers. They are criminals and moonshine runners during the depression. Their business is about to be threatened by new authorities that want a cut of their smuggling profit.
I wanted to watch Lawless for a while and now that I have seen it, I can easily say it would make my top 25 list for 2012. It is such a powerful and raw movie without going overboard. I love these types of films because it builds its appeal through strong characters and a compelling story. The film starts off and we are introduced to the three Bondurant brothers. The film quickly shows the viewer how moonshine is made and then how it is smuggled into the cities during the prohibition era. The film is a slow build up of the ultimate power struggle between the Bondurant brothers and a corrupt cop named Charlie Rakes. Neither side gives an inch as they battle for the moonshine supremacy. What starts off as a lot of posturing quickly escalates into violent bloodshed on both sides. It almost plays out as a sick and twisted game of who can murder the other guys in the most sadistic ways possible. Do the legendary Bondurant brothers have the power to defy the law? It is an answer you will definitely want to find out.
The acting and the characters is what makes this film as good as it is. There are many great performances but they are all over shadowed by Bane, I mean Tom Hardy. Hardy plays the oldest Bondurant brother, Forrest. Hardy could be nominated for best supporting actor for this role he is that good. His quiet and raspy voice adds to the illusion that this man is immortal. He dominates the scene whenever he is screen and makes you like his character even though he is inherently bad. I would recommend the movie just for his character alone. The corrupt cop named Charlie Rakes is also played very well by Guy Pearce. His creepy and slimy portrayal will make your skin crawl. He reminded me of Tim Roth’s character from Rob Roy and his performance is the quintessential evil character to a tee. Shia Labeouf couldn’t even ruin this film as the youngest and more honest of the Bondurant brothers named Jack. I am positive about two things about Labeouf. The first is he should not be doing anything remotely related to a dramatic role. The second is no matter what IMDB says he was Cory Matthews from Boy Meets World. I am being harsh but he does detract from this film with his strained delivery and dorky looks. Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, are all in this film also and provide solid performances.
As the violence escalates I found myself gripped to what was going to happen next. It was cool how the three brothers had very different personalities so it wasn’t just cut throats and gratuitous gunplay the entire time. There are moments of levity as Jack tries to court a local woman that has caught his fancy. There are also cool scenes of the brothers trying to rouse the local populace to go against the cops. Through it all though the film is about the graphic violence and it is done very well from start to finish. The only real disappointment comes at the end of the film as I felt it wasn’t as high impact as I would have liked. When so many people have died violently throughout the movie the end seems to lack intensity in its execution.
Director John Hillcoat knows what the viewers want (The Road, The Proposition). He has taken an interesting story about smuggling and captures his audience with graphic brutality. He cast very well and breaks up the slow story with many confrontations between different characters. If you like stories about crime, love, family bonds, passion, or drama, there is a little something for everyone in this movie. If the ending was more high impact this film would truly have been great. He did a fantastic job and just pads his resume a little more with this entry.
I give this movie a big recommendation especially to people who like graphic violence and powerful characters.
T Factor + If you like Shia Labeouf as an actor than this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you do not like graphic scenes of violence than this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: The Untouchables, The Departed.