In a time when good men turned rotten, blood-thirsty to cash in on the prohibition craze, three young boys lead the simple small town life while striving to make ends meet in the alcohol distributing business. Cinema has often gloried this alcohol-free period with one gangster movie after the next, showing the perspective from both sides of the law. But it wasn’t until John Hillcoat and Nick Cave, do we see a family caught in between police and gangster, living as proud small time bootleggers.
Since first publicly announced, Lawless has received much hype around the film. With a dynamite cast, an iconic screenwriter in rocker Nick Cave and an impressive Australian director in John Hillcoat, you assume a new classic. Unfortunately, what you get is nothing more than an ambitious try, with flashes of brilliance, moments of dull and a whole lot of mediocre to above average film.
First off, let us prefix the plot with while the film claims to be based on a true story, myths and tall tales make up Lawless. That being said, we still don’t mind a well conceived fictional fable.
Based on the book “The Wettest County in the World,” Lawless is the story of three brothers, Harold (Jason Clarke), Forrest (Tom Hardy), and Jack (Shia LaBeouf), that find success in making and selling moonshine during Prohibition. Their pride and stubbornness start a war when Forrest refuses to pay bribes to higher authorities that have taken control over local police.
Aside from a mediocre performance from LaBeouf, the whole cast is great at their roles. Jack’s friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan) and older brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) both seem to grabbed the camera’s attention and really shine in the film. Mia Wasikowska plays a plain girl who Jack wants to woo, Jessica Chastain beautifully maintains a balance between confidence and delicacy, and Guy Pearce is evilly reptilian. Gary Oldman is once again a ‘badass,’ this time playing gangster. Jack is arguably the main character, though his narration focuses on Forrest. Jack is a disappointing protagonist because LaBeouf in the most arrogant way possible paints him to be an immature, boastful kid, who begs to be disliked.
Gritty like his The Road and The Proposition, John Hillcoat has a high standard of filmmaking. We love the acting, (for the most part), the cinematography, the costumes, and the music. The only major criticism we have is the pretty outrageous story, and the ever so long dull moments in the beginning of the film. However, once the action picks up, the suspense comes and it never stops.
The family’s invincibility is referenced constantly, (seriously it never stops), throughout the entire film; so do not be surprised at the excessive ending. The film at moments oddly tip toes into silly humor as if to recognize its own absurdity and no longer take itself seriously.
Final Verdict: Lawless, ultimately is an extremely fantastical story that left us doubting any of its accuracy. Sure it makes for a good fictional tale, but it dances too far off the map of reality and lands closer to magic. Nevertheless the action is, overall, exciting, complemented by mostly impressive performances. While Lawless is unlikely to be one of the strongest contenders of autumn, it may be the best to come out of August.