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Reading the other reviews, I'm amused by the number of reviewers who
don't have a clue about how southern rural hill people behave (and esp.
behaved back in the 1920s). They accuse Hardy, and to some extent
LaBeouf, of bad acting because their characters are so laconic (that
means they don't run off at the mouth a lot) and inward and don't wear
every emotion on their sleeves. Then they mightily praise Oldman and
Pearce for great acting when they were, in fact, just playing northern
urban gangsters who like to behave over the top---the very thing that
disgusts southern sensibilities.
The folks making those review comments have probably spent too much time watching movies based on comic books and not enough time with dramatic characters representing actual human beings. So don't pay attention to their noise.
Instead, watch the flick. It's good. I enjoyed it.
Hold it everyone! Don't be put off because this has Shia Le Beouf in
it. Yes, some of you loath him for the Transformers movies, Indy 4 and
plenty of other stuff. However, in this one he manages to find a good
vehicle to change his tact.
We are in prohibition time, in the countryside in Virginia. The men are tough and they enforce their own law protecting their moonshine businesses. However they aren't the cringing redneck cliché of many other films; this isn't Deliverance. This is a dark movie where it seems those outwith of the religious community live and survive by force. In comes law enforcers from outside led by a sadistic sergeant, and we have an explosive mix.
Again, don't get the wrong impression. This film isn't about gung-ho good v evil. This is a lot more. Based on a true story (albeit likely taking big liberties with the truth), this is about the relationship of three brothers: two are ruthless whilst the third (Le Beouf) is weak. They look out for each other and that's the real nub.
Action comes generally in short sharp moments, but thankfully doesn't detract from the rest of the movie. Surprisingly some great acting and great camera work.
Personally, I enjoyed this very much. Ending was the only bit I was disappointed with but rest was very good. Give it a try, you may be surprised with what you find.
'Lawless' is definitely a great film but there's something missing.
The acting is really strong; Tom Hardy's performance is probably his best so far. His voice is so different to his normal voice which really highlights how he has worked hard on his performance. I was really surprised by Shia LaBeouf's performance, he's never really impressed me but he gave a great performance here. He really proved that he could do some proper acting in the future and hopefully move away from the 'Transformers' series. Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain both perform well but their roles are wasted here. They have no real purpose in the film and are merely there as love interests. It wouldn't have been such an issue if they had gotten any actress for these roles but they instead chose two of the best rising stars with huge amounts of talent. Guy Pierce is outstanding here but his role becomes almost comical towards the end. He gives a great performance though and is quite disturbing. Gary Oldman gives a really good performance but has only 5 minutes screen time! It seems like such a waste, it would have been interesting to see his character included in the plot a lot more.
Overall this film was fantastic but there was a few things that director John Hillcoat could have improved that would have made this film truly brilliant, such as giving more characters some crucial screen time. The violence was not really an issue; I don't think it diverted the film away from anything which is good. It contained the right amount of violence for the film and shouldn't put anyone off from watching this.
This movie is based on a book written by a relative of some of the main
characters depicted in this movie...just looked up Wikipedia, and the
author was Matt Bondurant, whose grandfather, Jack Bondurant, is called
"the runt of the litter" of the Bondurant brothers featured in this
tale of moonshiners in the age of Prohibition in America. That book was
called "The wettest county in the world" and the title refers to how
much illegal alcohol was produced in that area. The novel was adapted
for cinema by Australian alternative rock icon Nick Cave.
The story concerns how the Bondurant's once cozy relationship with sympathetic rural police is changed by the arrival of a corrupt Chicago law enforcement officer, Charlie Rakes (played by Australian Guy Pearce), who wants a cut of the Bondurant's illegal liquor business. Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) is not one to cave in to these demands. Things get ugly, but there is some romance in this movie too.
Whilst being a terrific yarn, the quirky central performances won't garner any Oscar attention, I wouldn't think. Guy Pearce's dandy/fop take on Charlie Rakes is highly stylised and amusing before he just becomes a plain horrible character. Tom Hardy's take on Forrest Bondurant incorporates many big cat like purrs, which also amuse.
Set in America's South, you mostly hear Southern drawls, so if Cave's screenplay is any good, you will miss a chunk of it unless you can decipher the more unintelligible dialogue in this movie...which I couldn't, but I understood enough of it not to lose the plot. Early on in the film, the reality of life in the South is not elided...you will see signs of racial segregation...literally.
Even though this movie doesn't have a lot of violence in it, when it does occur, it is bloody and horrific...both in what you actually see happen and the horrific implied violence which you do not see...except for the aftermath. These moments can be very confronting...it's horror movie territory.
Since the movie is based on a book by a member of the Bondurant family, you have to wonder how much is fictionalised in order to paint the clan in a positive light. Watching the end of the movie, concerning a final confrontation with Charlie Rakes, you have to wonder if it really happened that way.
Whilst not a 'chick flick', there are some romantic moments. There's a little bit of comedy too...I'm not sure if Pearce's and Hardy's performances are deliberately amusing, but apart from that aspect, there are some other amusing moments in the movie. I also liked the singing you first hear when Jack enters a church to be close to a woman he fancies (Australian actress Mia Wasikowska. There is a big Australian contingent in this movie. I did see Noah Taylor in the credits but don't remember seeing him in the movie).
Apparently this movie has things in common with Cave's original screenplay for the Australian movie "The proposition". I haven't seen that movie but if you like either movie, it might pay to check out the other if you haven't seen it.
I could see this movie winning an Oscar for best picture or adapted screenplay.
A ripping yarn.
Lawless is the story of the three Bondurant brothers from Franklin
County, Virginia, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, and the runt of the litter
Shia LaBoeuf. Before World War I the Bondurants made a good living
selling moonshine, but now Prohibition has arrived and there are new
problems on the horizon for those in that business.
One of the most colossal pieces of stupidity that America ever indulged in was Prohibition. We actually amended our constitution so that we could regulate morals. A good lesson for those who think regulation of one's personal behavior is a desired thing. What the Bondurants have to deal with is law enforcement which is in the form of a corrupt District Attorney Tim Tolin.
An idea like Prohibition is sure to bring out the corruption in many who see it as a way to take bribes. Tolin is one of those and he has a special deputy in Guy Pearce ready to enforce the law and those who don't bribe. That would be the Bondurants and we have the makings of an old fashioned mountain feud brewing.
LaBoeuf has a lot of trouble living up to the legend his brothers have created. In fact his weakness is the cause of a lot of problems. But when a young mountain kid Dane DeHaan is murdered by Pearce that gets a war started.
Both LaBoeuf and Pearce deliver some standout performances in Lawless. This is based on a novelization of some real incidents by a descendant of the Bondurant family. The recreation of Prohbition era rural Virginia is well done. Definitely worth a look.
Lawless was extremely well filmed, looked great and stayed true to year
it was set in. The cast was strong and all delivered good performances,
especially Tom Hardy, who once again showed how much of a versatile
actor he is. Shia LaBeouf was also a stand out performer for me.
The plot is simple but easy to follow. There are some extremely gruesome scenes and some bits of good gun action. Apart from a few scenes, the film was pretty much just dialouge. There wasn't much going on really. It was a decent film but ultimately it is something that I won't remember in a few weeks. I can see why some have rated it so highly, I guess this just isn't the sort of thing I normally like. It was good but I wouldn't watch it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wanting to be so many things, sometimes, leaves you with very little. "Lawless" is a blatant example of that. Everything feels so unauthentic no matter how much effort has been put into accomplishing the opposite. The script is rambling and sketchy as well as starchy and, at times, downright annoying. Tom Hardy is one of my favorites of late, but here, he seems to be impersonating someone. It felt like a self-conscious parody. And Shia LaBeouf? What's with this man? Why is he playing leads in films? He, I'm sure, must have acting coaches and he is, clearly, following instructions, but what about the truth? He acts up a storm but there is not a moment of truth, not one. Look at the moment when he's told his friend Cricket has been killed. I felt embarrassed for him. Jessica Chastain's character suffers a radical change in the middle of the story and I kept wondering, how? when? and more importantly, why? Gary Oldman is always a pleasure to watch and Mia Wasikowska is lovely and does the most with the little she was given. The lack of chemistry between her and LaBeouf is unavoidable. He is acting all the time. The only highlight, really, is Guy Pearce. His performance is fearless and enormously entertaining.
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
John Hillcoat has a penchant for westerns, it's quite obvious from his
earlier ventures and with Lawless he shows how dedicated he is to the
genre. I am not sure whether this movie would qualify for a western or
not but the brutishness, savagery and rawness of the characters are
indeed offshoots of revisionist westerns.
The crudeness of the movie and its character specially Tom Hardy is a treat, he has put in a great performance. Tom hardy gives himself to the role and he has done it time and again. Shia Labeof did have his moments but with Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke it's hard for an actor of his experience to shine. Another scrumptious treat was Guy Pierce, with his eyebrows missing he was out right menacing. The acting of the leads overshadows whatever holes might have been left.
The execution of the movie was good, it was very easy to be carried away making it just another violent and gore fest or another gun-slinger movie with no substance but director stayed firm. The characterization was given ample space to blossom and each character did bring an essence of its own to the story, nothing was wasted. The sound track and the visuals were other such valuables.
To me Lawless gives a kind of freshness to the crime, gangster genre executed in a western-esque style, nobody would count it among-st the greatest gangster movies but this does leave a mark of its own.
I'd give it a 8/10 and would strongly recommend.
Addendum: If violence and barbarity are not your flavour, this movie might offend you and if it's, then it does have the offbeat punctuation with no holds barred.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a really fine movie; there is a subtle difference between a
work of which you would say 'the movie was fine' and the deliberate
syntax I chose: 'fine movie '. If you can appreciate the nuance, you
can appreciate the performances delivered by the superb cast. Indeed
the producers and or directors as well as those responsible for casting
the likes of Tom Hardy, Guy Pierce, Gary Oldman, Shia LaBeouf, Jason
Clarke, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikoska must be commended for their
choice. The filmographies of Pierce, Hardy, Oldman, LaBeouf and
Wasikoska made this a film I would not have missed, one I awaited with
as much anticipation as the next Bond flick, but not for the same
reasons. These five consummate professionals were impeccable in
depicting characters of Matt Bondurant's novel.
Add outstanding co-lead of Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain (movie The Help) and Dane DeHaan, not to mention very good supporting performances by Noah Taylor and others, and this brilliant ensemble could have only failed to bring us quality work if the direction had not been up to par; director John Hillcoat, whose movies The Road and The Proposition I also highly recommend, did as well as he has in his previous movies. He knows how to play the audience by holding back just enough to keep you wanting more and to give you time to feel the emotions the actors put into their respective characters. Each character has strong deeply rooted personas; it was a thrill to see some of my favourite actors deliver that on screen. Hardy has that modern quiet intense John Wayne charisma about him, Pierce plays the sadistic law officer inebriated by his authority, LaBeouf the gentle soul who overcomes the weakness his brothers tried to help reform; LaBeouf has the most screen time as he goes through a greater maturing transition called by his character. One part of LaBeouf's transition was falling in love with the natural beauty that is Mia Wasikoska (terrific lead role in the movie Jane Eyre), and he does that very convincingly. Mind you, she looks sweet and her character is most endearing; I dreamt of seeing her face on the pillow next to mine the next morning.
As the storyline implies, this is a period piece, one with the sort of action you should expect for its backdrop. I liked that the director chose not to depict any of his characters in the usual hillbilly clichés. Unless you don't like or care for period pieces, and even then, I recommend this movie; you need to see good acting performances by this ensemble of pros.
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