LAWLESS movie poster




Review by Paul Preston

Gary Oldman!
Tom Hardy!
Guy Pearce!
Time to go to the theater, right?

Wait…Shia LaBeouf is in it, too…

So it’s a rental, right? Not so fast…

First of all, if you’re not a LaBeouf fan, you’ll be happy to know he gets beat up in this movie A LOT. But the best news is that LaBeouf makes good on the promise he showed years ago as a young actor. Some of his best work was in family films like “Holes” and “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, and then he kinda fell down a wormhole of blockbusters with “Transformers” and the worst movie of all time – “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”. Much to his own admission in the press recently, that left him a little unsatisfied. If he’s now focused on being in more sturdy, challenging films like “Lawless”, I welcome it. Be done with Indy Jones and on with the Indie films.

LawlessLaBeouf and Tom Hardy are the hayseed Bondurant brothers who corner the market in Virginia moonshine, and Guy Pearce plays a cop who’s determined to take them down. Here’s the most interesting challenge of this film – moonshine-running thugs run a illegal, violent business, and a corrupt bunch of amoral cops are brought in to bring justice…so, who am I rooting for again?

This complex screenplay is written by rock legend Nick Cave, who I saw in concert in the ‘90s and now is out to be a legit screenwriter. His last film, the western “The Proposition” was quite a brutal adventure, and “Lawless” doesn’t stray from that formula – cut throats, tar and feathering, brass knuckles, castration, it’s a pretty bloody mess. This film plays out like a quality western without the old west. Cave also contributes to a very good score, mixing modern and mountain music successfully.

Guy Pearce - LawlessThere isn’t much here that surprises, plot-wise, it’s a fairly straight-forward narrative, but the cast delivers, all good actors. Guy Pearce is bringing skinny back. I saw the little seen action film “Lockout”, and he was a buffed-up stud in that. There’s no hope of a sequel to that unless he hits the gym. Well, there’s probably no hope of a sequel to that anyway, but… With either bleached or missing eyebrows, couldn’t quite tell, and a upper-class demeanor that juxtaposes nicely with his murderous ways, he’s one of the more unique villains of the movies this year. He looks like he died last week, but refuses to lie down till he brings in those Bondurant boys!

And between this, “Warrior” and “The Dark Knight Rises”, let’s hope Tom Hardy sticks around. He’s a real star who’s also a real actor, and we can always use more of those. The three roles I just mentioned alone are wonderfully detailed and wildly different. I’m a big fan.

Director John Hillcoat, who brought authenticity to the look and feel of his last film, “The Road”, does the same here. I mean, what must these guys SMELL like? I think the film was produced by Sweaty & Dusty Studios. Hillcoat builds real tension and raises the stakes towards the film’s conclusion and I got wrapped up in watching LaBOOF step up and protect his family and their bloody, illegal business.

I recommend it, but come strong. Bring your intestinal fortitude.

Directed by: John Hillcoat
Release Date: August 26, 2012
Run Time: 115 Minutes
Country: USA
Rated: R
Distributor: The Weinstein Company


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