Expectations for Lawless were high. Following John Hillcoat and Nicks Cave’s success with The Proposition, when the talented director and screenwriter announced they would once again be working together nothing less than great was going to be acceptable. With a top-notch cast in tow (Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce and Shia LaBeouf to name a few) Lawless takes the audience on a journey exploring the lives of the three Bondurant brothers and their illegal moonshine business in a small town in Virginia. Based on the novel The Wettest County in the World, the film’s real strength is in the powerful on screen performances.
With the film being narrated by the youngest of the three brothers, Jack (LaBeouf) is the main focus of the film. Being constantly overshadowed by his fearsome older brothers, much of the plot focuses on Jack maturing into adulthood and desperately trying to gain his brothers’ respect. Slightly irritating at times, LaBeouf’s character is far less interesting than those of Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke. Playing the roles of Forrest and Howard Bondurant respectively, when these two take to the screen the real excitement begins.
With their characters being neglected in favour of LaBeouf’s Jack, the film could definitely have done with giving more prominence to both actors, Hardy in particular. Following his outstanding performance as Bane in the recently released Batman film, Hardy gets a chance to showcase a different side to his talents. Stuttering his way along, the cardie-wearing Forrest Bondurant manages to maintain the perfect balance between a violent criminal and lovable hick. His relationship with Guy Pearce’s character Charlie Rakes, a sadistic and creepy deputy from Chicago, makes for a captivating watch. Arriving in to Virginia in an attempt to shut down the moonshine business Pearce creates a truly unique and hateful character that leaves the audience feeling more than just a little uncomfortable every time he appears onscreen.
With the posh talking deputy taking an instant disliking to the ‘invincible’ Bondurant brothers and their hillbilly counterparts, the film really takes off when he arrives on the scene. Not without its fair share of violence and gore, Lawless presents the audience with some scenes that might not be appreciated by the fainter hearted.
Although the plot is extremely simple and at times predictable, Lawless is brought to life with the strength of the cast and the beautifully shot scenes. With the subplot focusing on the love lives of Forrest and Jack, the film manages to inject some more light-hearted and humorous content amidst the violence.
Despite not taking full advantage of the cast at times, Lawless is definitely worth the trip to the cinema. Although it won’t be to everyone’s taste, the violence and grime are definitely a small price to pay in exchange for some high quality performances. And if all else fails, at least there’s Tom Hardy’s face to creep on!