Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Guy Pearce
Runing time: 155mins
Set in Depression-era Franklin County, Virginia, a bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and other authorities who want a cut of their profits.
It’s the height of prohibition, and in Franklin County, dubbed “The Wettest County in America”, the Bondurant Brothers, Forest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) run a small but very successful moonshine business.
Though they aren’t the only moonshiners and bootleggers in Franklin County, they keep themselves to themselves and run their legitimate diner business whilst openly selling their illegal hooch, all under the watchful, but “taken care of” local sheriff and his deputies.
All this changes drastically when FBI Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) turns up and gives each operator an ultimatum: pay up for protection and free passage or shut up shop. Needless to say the Bondurant Brothers are NOT for selling and a war soon embraces not only their family but the entire county.
This is an amazing period drama which is based on true events. Director John Hillcoat, whose previous works include The Road, has taken the script by musician Nick Cave, and created a visual masterpiece of history.
All of the cast are on top form with performances by Hardy, Clarke and LaBeouf, the latter of which has shaken off the CGI shackles of his previous vehicles and turned in a rather impressive performance. There is even a few scene stealing turns by Gary Oldman as a big-time gangster, however, it’s Guy Pearce who you will remember the most.
Rarely have we seen a character on screen who can be charming and sinister at exactly the same time. At times the audience winces at his savagery and peeping through hands covering eyes, you should applaud this stellar performance which is worthy of award nominations.
It is his onscreen savagery that, although brief, basically makes the viewer feel as if they were right there on location. The cinematography sweeps from mountains covered with moonshine stills to the mean and gritty streets of Chicago. The viewer can practically smell the hooch off the stills, and at times feel as though they are being splashed by the very blood spilled to maintain the brother’s livelihoods.
Backed by a soundtrack that is both period and contemporary, Lawless is a film that takes what others have done, namely Public Enemies and The Newton Boys, and literally takes them out to the back woods for a taste of their own justice.
Though the script has no memorable one-liners, its never clichéd and neither does the film’s running time seem slow in pace. This is an actors’ film, both in their appearance and delivery of dialogue matched by interspersed with scenes of extreme and brutal violence.
If you are looking for a drama that has superb acting by all of the cast, breath-taking cinematography and is based on true events, then look no further; a real pleasure to watch.
P.S Thanks to The QFT for providing this advance screening. For a list of their upcoming releases including Lawless, please visit: www.queensfilmtheatre.com