As we are coming into the home stretch of the month of August and the Labor Day Weekend, not to mention the business of TIFF staring us down there is still the business of everyday releases to worry about. Out in theatres today in a rare Wednesday release from our friends at Alliance Films is a tale based on a true story from the rough and tumble times when bootlegging was previlant and the American Dream could get you killed. It’s time for “Lawless”.
Starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Gary Oldman
Directed by John Hillcoat
“Lawless” is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers (Hardy, LaBeouf and Jason Clarke); bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant’s family in his novel “The Wettest County in the World”, the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation’s most notorious crime wave.
In this his follow up to “The Road” director John Hillcoat explores the violent and vicious nature that the bootlegging wars brought out in people feeling their liberties oppressed and the crime that came out of it with solid but mostly uneven results. As it tries to turn the whisky trade of the time into some sort of myth, it doesn’t quite work because even though Hillcoat who is adapt storyteller and does a fine job at making each individual shot look important and beautiful in its own right, the script by Nick Cave and the performances of the actors quite often felt like they were at odds with one another and not really meshing together the way that they should as any attempt at any sort of emotional complexity felt forced. It was a bloody world of action with a very unique soundtrack that kept us for the most part engaged but there were some performances in the ensemble that did as much as possible to take us out of the moment entirely.
Tom Hardy as the eldest Bondurant brother Forrest did a fine job as he was equal parts menacing and stoic as he knew the world that he lived in and the necessities of it. Jason Clarke as middle brother Howard was often in the background of the proceedings but as the youngest brother Jack; Shia LaBeouf pulls this movie down with a performance this isn’t really annoying but it is lazy and reckless. Interpreting the material as simply playing a brash young man who drank a lot and acted recklessly with the hubris of youth it seems as there wasn’t any thought to why but just that it could be done. Given that he was really the primary focus of the film, it came off as forced and awkward and really didn’t work. Guy Pearce was chewing the scenery as the villainess Charlie Rakes but his performance and character was so uncomfortably cartoonish that it really didn’t work. The likes of Jessica Chastain, Dane DeHaan, Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman round out the supporting ensemble and did a fine job but while watching this film, this critic couldn’t help but get the feeling that this entire narrative was focusing on the wrong brother as Tom Hardy’s character may have made for a more watchable cinematic protagonist.
When all is said and done with “Lawless” there are still some elements about the film that are worth a look, but there was simply too much about the film that was a little too lifeless to warrant a real recommendation.
2 out of 5 stars.
“Lawless” is now playing in theatres all across the country; check with your local listings for show times.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my feed above or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tout as the Pop Culture Poet for all the latest and greatest news and reviews from the world of entertainment.