Film Review: Lawless

2012 crime drama: Directed by John Hillcoat, starring: Tom Hardy, Shia Labeouf, and Guy Pearce. [rated R] Stars given: 4/5

Film Review: Lawless

Period-piece film generates a period of entertainment for audiences

Most movie-goers can remember the first time actor Shia LaBeouf was on the wrong side of the law in the Disney channel original movie “Holes.” Based off a popular children’s book, “Holes” showed how his character drew together a family of supposed “law breaking” kids to save the day.

Also based off a book is “Lawless,” an adaptation of the book, “The Wettest Country in the World,” which tells the tale of the Bondurant brothers, possibly the most famous bootleggers during the Great Depression.

Taking place in Franklin County, Virginia, “Lawless” tells the story of Forrest Bondurant (played by Tom Hardy), Howard Bondurant (played by Jason Clarke), and their little brother, Jack Bondurant (played by Shia LaBeouf). As long as the brothers have all the local sheriffs in their pocket (bribed with first purchase as they drive their home-made alcohol, aka: moonshine, into town), everything goes smoothly. Sure, there are rival bootleggers, but occasionally having to shoot or stab someone comes with the job. But when “special” Deputy Charles Rakes (Guy Pearce), a crooked cop from Chicago, comes in to unify all of the illegal bootleggers under his rule, the brothers must take a stand, leading to a war deep within the Virginia woods.

The fact that this story is based off of the real brother’s lives helps to make the characters believable, but it still wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything without a well-designed group of actors, and, in that regard, this film delivers. A slow, steady pacing makes it feel as if nothing is truly progressing, but that is hidden from the audience, thanks to the trio of actors that makes the Bondurant brothers feel as if they are all really related.

“Lawless” takes home an “R” rating for a reason and it isn’t because of all the drinking and cleavage-flashing. There are quite a few parts that are painful to watch, including a couple stabbings and a final shoot-out show down. What truly takes the ratings cake, however, is a scene that occurs halfway through the film and made a few guys in the audience grimace as they covered their laps.

Most period pieces are visually stunning, but end up dragging the plot, and “Lawless” is true to that tradition. However, with the directional character development and good cast, the audience doesn’t feel the way things slow down, and that boosts “Lawless” to a solid 4 out of 5 paws.


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