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In 1931, in Franklin County, Virginia, Forrest Bondurant is a legend as immortal after surviving the war. Together with his brothers Howard and the coward Jack, the Bondurant family has a distillery and bootlegging business. When the corrupt District Attorney Mason Wardell arrives in Franklin with the unscrupulous Special Deputy Charles Rakes, the Bondurant family refuses to pay the required bribe to the authorities. Rakes pursues the brothers and unsuccessfully tries to find their distillery. Meanwhile Forrest hires the waitress Maggie, a woman with a hidden past in Chicago, and they fall in love with each other. Jack courts the preacher's daughter Bertha Minnix and deals a great load of alcoholic liquor with the powerful gangster Floyd Banner. Jack shows off in Franklin attracting the attention of Rakes that finds the location of their distillery. When he kills the crippled Cricket Pete, the locals join forces to face the corrupt authorities. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Prohibition in rural Virginia means bootleggers and moonshiners can make a lot of money producing liqueur . The Bondurant brothers are amongst the most successful moonshiners in the state . Their industry is under threat from Special Deputy Charley Rakes who will do anything to bring down the Bondurant brothers
I wouldn't say I enjoyed director John Hillcoat's previous work since they're a bit too painfully gloomy , downbeat and nihilistic to be enjoyed but I did respect his films . Here he has made his most commercial and accessible film featuring the tried and tested genre of the gangster film which is always popular with the public . Based upon the book The Wettest County In The World by Matt Bondurant . Hillcoat has made a film with commercial appeal but has probably made it a bit too commercial for the American box office for it to be a truly hard hitting and memorable film that the director is known for
The battle lines are drawn far too black and white . The Bondurants are merely following the business of America which is business and the fact that they're filling a market that due to the stupidity of politicians is an illegal market is neither here nor there because they are essentially real life American Robin Hoods risking , life , limb and liberty to keep ordinary Americans in home made apple brandy . Every businessman needs an enemy and this enemy is the American federal government who have employed Special Deputy Charley Rakes who isn't really interested in upholding the law but does the job because it involves torture and murder . Try and think of the Sheriff of Nottingham fused with a torturer from a Latin American fascist dictatorship played in a manner by Guy Pearce that suggests he thinks he's still appearing in pantomime at Preston Guild Hall and you've got the idea where this might be going wrong
You are left with the impression that Hillcoat is pulling out all the stops to give this commercial appeal . Not only are the good guys a bit too good , the bad guys a bit too bad leaving the audience in no doubt who to cheer for but is also trying to make a film trying to appeal to both teenagers and a female audience . We get a charming - it says here
coming of age story about Jack Bondurant who has fallen in love with
a girl from the Amish church and we get a subplot about a romance between Forrest Bondurant and Maggie Beauford . In other words the story loses focus and is trying to do too much
This is a pity because LAWLESS is an impressive film in parts . The disgracefully underrated Tom Hardy just about the most impressive actor in the world in the last couple of years is good in the role of Forrest and does manage to flesh out his role as just being a misunderstood good guy . The cinematography is beautiful and Hillcoat does manage to paint a convincing picture of both time and place . That said you are still left with the impression Hillcoat is trying a bit too hard to make the film be a massive box office success and one wishes he'd stuck to his guns and made a movie involving a lot more dubious morality and nihilism that the director had done in GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL DEAD , THE PROPOSITION and THE ROAD
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