← Back to Reviews
Lawless (2012)
dir. John Hillcoat

Lawless, based on the book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, originally possessed an all-star cast that featured James Franco, Ryan Gosling, and Amy Adams, and was set to begin filming in early 2010. Financial issues prevented this, and when filming fell through, Shia LaBeouf was the only actor of the original cast to remain attached. Good. This was one of the better performances Iíve seen him give, and the character was well-suited to LaBeoufís strengths.

The film follows the lives of the infamous bootlegging Bondurant brothers, who made and sold alcohol in the hills of Franklin County, Virginia during Prohibition. Legends abound regarding how the brothers, in particular the eldest Forrest (portrayed by Tom Hardy), were invincible, unable to be killed, and this proves fairly accurate as the Bondurants parade all over the county, being shot, stabbed, beaten to a pulp, and even, in Forrestís case, having their throat slit, all while recovering with nary more than a cool scar and another knick on the legendís roster. Itís also one of the filmís low points, as it piles on bloody sequences and gunfights and fails to make an impression regarding the characters.

For a movie that originally boasted the cast that it did, and later boasted a cast that was by no means unimpressive, including Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, and Gary Oldman, the film provided very little in terms of characterization for any of the leads. LaBeoufís character Jack was unlikable to the point of being annoying, Forrest was likable at points, and I canít even remember the name of the third brother despite his position as Forrestís second-in-command.

Jessica Chastain and Guy Pearce both did their best with what they were given, with special recognition to Guy Pearce for his portrayal of the filmís villain, the deliciously evil Deputy Charlie Rakes. Dane Dehaan played the filmís most lovable character, a crippled young moonshiner named Cricket Pate, and gave a good performance as well. None, however, were able to inject life or humanity into what should have been a very human film, and none were able to fight their way through the clinical coldness that the script had to offer.

I didnít end the movie hating it, so I canít say that it was a terrible film. It was beautifully shot and the story itself was interesting enough. Rather, I have to say that the film left me with something that, in a movieís case, is worse than hate: apathy.

** As of August 2014, Lawless is available to watch on Netflix Instant.