Lawless is exactly the movie you expect it to be. It’s a violent, predictiable, period gangster drama, that plays out like every other violent, predictiable, period ganster drama you’ve ever seen. So if that’s what you’re looking for, that’s exactly what you get……and it is awesome.
Now don’t get me wrong, Lawless is by no stretch of the imagination a great film. It’s awkwardly paced, a bit cheesy at spots, and certain plot elements don’t really add up (though I imagine some aren’t supposed to). The movie works however, because its weak points are covered up by an INCREDIBLE cast, and amazing direction that drives home the atmosphere of the time period and really makes you buy that this is the setting it says it is.
Lawless is loosely based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers, who during 1930’s prohibition era Virgina, illegially sold moonshine. The brothers became legendary for stories of them being invinsible, and immortal. Naturally the law catches up with them, and….well, you know the drill, as I said there’s really not much new or interesting to discuss in terms of plot.
As I mentioned, the cast of Lawless is incredible. Not only does it feature three of the most talented and versatile actors working today (Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, and of course Gary Oldman), but this is the first film that has proved to me that Shia LaBeouf can actually act, and do it well. Playing the youngest of the brothers, Jack, he doesn’t really stand up to the pros in this movie, but he holds his own enough that he doesn’t feel totally lost as the lead actor among some of the greatest actors working today. It’s hard to say that there’s a scene stealer in a film with such an amazing cast, but if there is, Guy Pearce as the villian Charlie Rakes, would be it. He completely owns the role, making what could have been just another crazy psychopath into an almost terrifying presence, and is easily one of the year’s best villians. Gary Oldman is sadly only in the film briefly, and isn’t given very much to do. Some would say that he is wasted in the film, but he makes it work, not only being a lot of fun in the brief time he’s on screen, but having one of the coolest character introductions I’ve seen in a long time. Tom Hardy Plays the eldest Bondurant, Forrest. As usual Hardy is great, being calm and collected, violent and tough, and humorous and innocent all in one role.
The atmosphere in Lawless is perfect. I really bought that this was 1930’s Virginia. Some purists may cry foul that this is a period piece shot on digital rather than film, but i say if it works it works, and it most certainly works. The soundtrack is appropriate, not quite outstanding or memorable, but it supplies the appropriate ammount of ambiance to drive home the atmosphere. The direction is phenominal in every aspect. The film is beautifully shot, and tightly edited. Though as I said previously, the pacing could have used a little work, I’m not sure if I should blame that on the writer or the editor.
If you’re looking for a new, groundbreaking take on the gangster drama…….this is not it. But Lawless works as what it is, a flawed, predictible, and thoroughly entertaining film. This is the closest thing we’ve gotten to a good Michael Mann style film in a while, so if you know what you’re in for and it sounds good to you. I very much recommend this one.