Friday, October 12, 2012


Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia Labeouf, Jason Clarke,
Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain and Gary Oldman
Released: 2012
Runtime: 116 minutes
Rating: 4/5

I’ve always been drawn to films that are set during the Great Depression. There is a certain cinematic quality about them that I find very appealing. I’m not sure if it’s the language, style, characters or it being just a simpler time; perhaps a combination of it all.  But it’s certainly what drew me towards Lawless, and also my fascination with American gangsters from that era.

Lawless is the true story of three brothers living in Franklin County, Virginia. They’re a bootlegging gang amongst many in the area who come under threat by a new deputy from Chicago and other corrupt authorities who want a cut of the gang’s profit.  

Being that this film is by Australia director John Hillcoat and that I loved his previous film The Road, my expectations were pretty high. I won’t say Lawless exceeded them but it certainly easily met them.  It was a compelling and thrilling movie going experience and a great example of why I love films set in this particular ear so much as per the reasons mentioned above.

A lot of people have noted and even complained how slow paced the plot is. I didn't mind that at all as I don’t constantly need something to be happening on the screen. There are many quiet scenes with soft spoken dialogue which I felt brought a peaceful and still quality to the film, in spite of the violence which is shocking and nothing of sort of brutal. But it’s not as constant as the trailer would have you believe. It comes in waves, each wave being bigger each time; it’s well balanced and has a meaning as well as being a reflection of that environment. 

Tom Hardy gives a potential Oscar nominated performance as the eldest brother Forrest. He doesn't say a whole lot and a lot of what he does actually say are often soft grunts. I think it’s more his body language that speaks more about him than anything else. His youngest brother Jack played by Shia Labeouf is quite impressive, giving an emotionally intense performance. And middle brother Howard (Jason Clarke) is also very good, a troubled man hiding from a traumatic past behind an endless supply of moonshine. Last but not least, Guy Pearce is just fantastically creepy as Special Deputy Rakes, a violent and corrupt authority figure but ultimately a coward. You watch Pearce in this film and it’s so hard to believe that was once on TV’s Neighbours; I guess we all have to start somewhere. One main gripe I do have with the film; more so in regards to characters, is that there wasn't enough of Gary Oldman. He’s in two fairly short but great scenes and that’s it. I just really would have loved to have seen more from his character. It’s Gary Oldman for goodness sake.

Upon final analysis, Lawless is a great story about good outlaws up against bad lawmen. A display of that fine line that lies between good and evil. It’s a beautifully shot film with a nice soundtrack. However the ending was not what I was expecting I was hoping for a certain character to show up and save the day. But it still managed to be thrilling and finishes a fairly pleasant note.

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