Grim tale packs a punch

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - LEIGH PAATSCH Now show­ing State and Vil­lage cine­mas

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 ★ ★ ★ ■

AD­VER­TIS­ING IN­QUIRIES:

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.

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