Grim tale packs a punch
DON’T take Lawless too seriously, and you will have a fine old time indeed.
For all its posturing as an artful and complex drama, Lawless is really just The Dukes of Hazzard bashed up and bundled into a sepia- filtered time machine with way less jokes and way more violence.
The whole concept is sent back to the height of prohibition for one heck of a nasty makeover.
There are good ol’ boys runnin’ moonshine down dusty back roads in hotted- up jalopies. Cops are on their tail. Wanting a cut of the action, or to simply cut them up. There will be blood. There won’t be much else by the end of Lawless.
The central figure here is young Jack Bondurant ( Shia LaBeouf), the jumpy baby brother of a renowned Virginia moonshining dynasty.
Jack not only wants in on the family business. He wants to expand it. Jack’s older siblings, Forrest ( Tom Hardy) and Howard ( Jason Clarke) have always been inclined to brew their booze on the sly. Grain alcohol in glass jars. No frills. Just the promise of a kick like a mule.
The big- boy Bondurants are not so keen on Jack opening a moonshine pipeline to LAWLESS ★ ★ ★ ■
John Hillcoat ( Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska
) the most notorious gangster in the county, Lloyd Banner ( Gary Oldman).
Especially when Jack draws the attention of a new breed of law enforcement officials from up Chicago way. These guys don’t look the other way, like the local cops.
Working from a crude, but effective screenplay by longtime collaborator Nick Cave, director John Hillcoat clearly has an affinity for the time, place and events depicted here.
The greatest asset of Lawless is how completely it realises not only the true story of the Bondurants’ exploits, but also the chaotic, desperate atmosphere in which they occurred.
It is here the full force of an unusual performance by Guy Pearce takes hold. He plays Charley Rakes, a preening federal agent with shaved eyebrows, a short temper and a sharp dress sense. Rakes is also the most reprehensible screen villain of 2012 ( depending on where you stand on Bane from The Dark Knight Rises ).
The film as a whole is no classic. Between bursts of very intense violence, there are often drifty, drowsy scenes that struggle to justify their relevance.
While LaBeouf does a fair job of anchoring the production, there’s no doubting it would have worked better if Tom Hardy had featured more prominently in proceedings.
While Hardy does break the world record for screen time spent in a cardigan – by some considerable distance – you are left wishing he and others ( such as Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) had been given more to do.