The story is relatively simple to be honest. The film centres in Franklin, Virginia where the three Bondurant brothers Forrest (Bane himself, Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Former Autobot Cohort, Shia LaBeouf) are some of the lead bootleggers of Moonshine Alcohol in the area during the rise of prohibition. The country life of Bootlegging proves easy pickings even with the local law, however their luck soon changes with the arrival of Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), which eventually proves chaotic for all those involved. Throw in potential for romantic connections via new in town femme Maggie Beauford (The Helps, Jessica Chastain) and Preachers Daughter Bertha Minnix (Tim Burtons Alice, Mia Wasikowska), plus shady dealings with crime boss Floyd Banner (legendary Police commissioner Gary Oldman) and you have the well thought out, beautifully constructed Drama “Lawless”. Just to refresh your memory, lets take a look at the trailer…
For those of you unaware, the screenplay was written by Australian Singer/Songwriter Nick Cave, and is adapted from the true events from the novel entitled “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant. Bondurant (Grandson of Jack Bondurant). Nick Cave does a very good job of adapting the screenplay, the writing flows, and works brilliantly with the talent of the cast. The Soundtrack is also structured very well, making very good use of some of the best country stars out there today. Artists such as Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, The Bootleggers, Willie Nelson and even the films writer Nick Caved himself. All these stars mix together to bring you a great collaboration of authentic Bluegrass inspired by the early part of the 20th Century.
The film overall is very well done. I really enjoyed the pace, it rarely dragged and thankfully didn’t really have any unnecessary waffle. One thing that I must let you know is that there are some things in this movie that are not for the faint of heart. That’s not to say they’re unnecessary or explicit; the content is required to the overall journey of the story and with great effect. But if you’re a little squeamish, this may not be the film for you. “Lawless” is a nice little all-rounder. But what honestly worked for me was the casting. Everything just seemed to fit effortlessly. If I’m honest, I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Oldman in the movie but that’s simply a personal preference.
Tom Hardy is brilliant as the strong and silent Forrest. Although slightly monosyllabic during a number of scenes (no digital audio enhancement required!), his timing and delivery were just spot on throughout. I have to admit, I was mainly drawn to this film because of Hardy, after his performance in the Dark Knight Rises, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Its shows tremendous talent to portray as much emotion as he does which as little amount of expression as he uses, this film is worth watching for his pearls of wisdom alone!
Guy Pearce did a masterful job of immersing himself in this role. Making the audiences skin crawl at every point he really pulls out the stops throughout his entire performance! You can tell from the trailer alone that Rakes is not intended, nor ever going to be a likeable character; but the levels that he goes to in order to get his authority across is nothing short of horrifying.
As for Jessica Chastain. I haven’t really seen her much before this, but I can honestly say this will change following the viewing of this film. She has such a presence about her, she really draws you in. The character of Maggie has a past, this you’re aware of, and although it doesn’t really get elaborated on that much, by half way through the film you don’t really focus on the past, simply on the matters at hand and the consequences that follow. From this performance, I’ve definitely become a fan. Quite simply, Jessica Chastain honestly is a work of sheer class in this movie!
A nice little treat for everyone is granted in the shape of Gary Oldman, who plays crime boss Floyd Banner. Despite his small amount of screen time compared to his co-stars, he continues to have the power to grab the audience’s attention by a simple look! Basically proving once again what we all know, if you put Oldman in a movie his performance is what is better known as money in the BANK!
Now then, let’s address the man-boy shaped elephant in the room, Shia LaBeouf. A lot of people lost respect for him after Indian Jones 4, and to be fair you can understand. But to be honest I’ve never really disliked him in anything, in fact a hidden gem for me is his movie “Disturbia”, a 21st century version of Alfred Hitchcocks “Rear Window”. In this movie he portrays the runt of the Bondurant clan, Jack; who looks to become more involved in the family business. I wasn’t actually expecting the film to revolve around him as much as it did, but in spite of the public’s misgivings about him, LaBeouf is actually quite a talented guy and works well in front of the camera given the right roles to work with. I have to admit, I thought he did really well with this, having seen him in some really random stuff over the years, it’s really nice to see him tackle something with a bit of grit.
Bottom line, this film is well written, well performed and doesn’t get dull by losing pace. Truly a piece of work everyone should feel happy with. What I will say is that if you’re not a fan of LaBeouf, this possibly isn’t the film for you. However, if you’re a fan and can look past such trivial issues, this is definitely a film that deserves attention!