“I’m a Bondurant. We don’t lay down for nobody.”
Inspired by his ancestors’ involvement in the underground moonshine industry during Prohibition-age Virginia, Matt Bondurant novelized the events into the historical drama known as The Wettest County in the World. Now director John Hillcoat has taken the script adapted from the novel (courtesy of Nick Cave) to create the gritty crime drama Lawless.
Lawless follows the Bondurant brothers as they fight to maintain control of their moonshine business against those who try to get some of their profits; most notably being crooked deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). At the same time, Jack Bondurant (Shia LeBeouf) is out to prove that he’s just as tough as his two older brothers, Forrest (Tom Hardy) & Howard (Jason Clarke). While trying to ‘court’ a preacher’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska), Jack ultimately gets his wish as he finds himself sucked in an ever-escalating moonshine war.
Lawless has stellar acting from a superb cast. The chemistry among the whole cast was . The big name performers didn’t disappoint. Shia LeBeouf delivers an impassioned performance as Jack Bondurant, the youngest Bondurant brother with a chip on his shoulder. Tom Hardy gives a very strong performance as Forrest Bondurant, the strong silent muscle behind the Bondurant boys. Guy Pearce perhaps had the strongest performance of the movie as crooked deputy Charlie Rakes. Whether it was Jessica Chastain (Maggie Beauford), Jason Clarke (Howard Bondurant), Dane DeHaan (Cricket Pate) or Gary Oldman (Floyd Banner) onscreen, it was truly a showcase of talented performances.
In addition to the great performances, the cinematography was on point & the set design looked really authentic. The set designers along with the costumers did a great job in recreating the overall look of the 1930s. The mixture of folk music in conjunction with a score composed with really lend it to the environment and make you feel like you were there as part of the action.
Despite the action, spectacular cinematography, & arguably the best ensemble cast of the summer, the overall story flow felt somewhat hollow. The story is ill paced with scenes that didn’t seem to fit well with the big picture. The movie also underutilizes the skillful performance of Gary Oldman’s Floyd Banner. While this is not a slight toward the other actors, this was an example of one of the many opportunities that this movie missed. The moments when the actors played their respective roles to the best of their abilities, it’s like all of the players are singing & harmonizing in great manner. When it doesn’t, it seems like everyone is yelling at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately, due to the story, it is more of the latter.
Lawless can be graphic at times. If it could use a movie title as a subtitle, it would be There Will Be Blood. In addition to the action getting gritty, there are instances of spicy language, brief nudity, a sexual situation, & few intense moments. If you have any objections to these issues, then you definitely should avoid this movie.
Lawless is a movie that doesn’t quite live up to its potential. While it’s a well acted action drama, it suffers from severe story issues. If you manage to get your interest horse through much of the thick muddy story puddles, Lawless manages to pull itself together long enough to get you excited just in time to actually care about what happens at the end. While I thought this movie was better than Savages, I was slightly disappointed as I expected it to be one of the best movies of the summer. B-
Fade to black…