2nd OP Review: Lawless (2012)
The story is loosely based on some fact, fill in with some fiction and a dash of legend from the Brothers Bondurant: three liquor bootlegging brothers who made a major profit in the Prohibition-era of Franklin County, Virginia. Truth be told, Matt Bondurant wrote a novel in 2008 called The Wettest County in the World about his grandfather and great-uncles real life chronicles during the crime wave of the roaring 1920’s.
The novel is adapted by Nick Cave, directed by John Hillcoat (The Road) and stars Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke (Public Enemies), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Gary Oldman, Dane DeHann (Chronicle) and Guy Pierce. Forrest (Hardy) is the mastermind behind a successful bootlegging operation with his brothers Howard (Clarke) and Jack (LeBeouf) in Franklin County. Even the local law enforcement is in on the take. It seems like nothing or no one can touch them until Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Pierce) rolls in and requests a generous cut of the entire profit. Forrest refuses, threatens to kill Rakes if he shows his face again and so begins the movie! Meanwhile Jack is trying to find his place in the organization, he wants to show his brothers that he can handle the responsibilities despite being passive and timid. But he gets more than he can chew when he tries to impress a preacher’s daughter (Wasikowska) and deliver the goods with his friend Cricket Pane (DeHaan) while running into the gangster Floyd Banner (Oldman) Jack will have to grow up quickly or else face his maker.
John Hillcoat does an excellent job giving us a graphic and desolate picture of the dusty town ravaged by corruption and greed. However the story is straight-forward, methodically slow before the blood and action draws in. There are no crazy plot twists, you can easily tell what is coming, but how the brutality and violence slashes on the scene is what makes it borderline jaw-dropping. Once Guy Pearce makes his first appearance, you know the S**T WILL hit the fan! He gives a memorable role of a psychotic and brutal mad dog stopping at nothing until he gets his way. You just want him dead after he pulls his devious stunts.
Meanwhile Tom Hardy is a refreshing blend of the anti-hero you don’t want to cross, yet funny with one-liners and grunts towards anything that come his way. You can tell he is the lead dog of the pack, but also knows his limits until he is threatened with. Shia LeBeouf can actually… act? Yes, he pulls off a Southern accent too! He did not annoy me, for once. Granted, he is set up to do some stupid things, but someone has to do it… right?
I personally felt that Gary Oldman almost had no point of being in this movie. He did function in one key part of the movie, which is essential for the revenge element against Rakes. Otherwise, I felt his talent was wasted. Also the female leading roles of Bertha (Wasikowska) and Maggie (Chastain) were put there to fill in. Like automatically linked to their respective male interests without even trying. Bertha had absolutely zero interest to me, I could understand the taboo church girl with a ‘bad’ boy element. But I felt Wasikowska’s talents were wasted, she did SO MUCH BETTER in Jane Eyre and Alice! At least Maggie had more scenes that are more relevant as Forrest’s bartender with some back-story to why she moved from Chicago. But she gets lost in like second half of the film, almost disappears in the end with Bertha. Which leads me to the anti-climatic ending… I wanted a bit more than a voice-over. I felt a little disappointed that we get just a mention of key characters.
Lawless is a good film, that should have been a GREAT film. But when you create a story based on real-life events and people, it leaves little room for creativity and flexibility to the intricate parts of the storytelling. It has strong billing of A-list actors doing their parts like they should. One could blame the writing for the questionable use of supporting actors or perhaps the choice of editing out scenes. But does this take away my enjoyment of the film? No. I liked it more than enough to ignore some faults.
The most memorable moments of Lawless involved Guy Pearce’ character and he was only third or fourth billing in the cast. As a fan of both Tom Hardy and Shia Lebeouf, I can honestly say this feature film isn’t one of their best but just average. Shia can’t seem to get out of his stereotypical role. Tom Hardy had the southern accent but he felt too much like Bane from Batman Rises. If this was truly a lawless movie, much more action should have taken place. Instead, we’re left with a drag-on country flick with little to no action scenes that garner the “LawLess” title and Tommy-gun weapons.
~ Quaisha A. Thornton, "SpawnHellraiser"