By Jair Fuentes
Based on actual events and inspired by the true-life tales of Matt Bondurant’s prohibition era novel, “The Wettest County in the World,” “Lawless” tells the story of three moonshining brothers from Franklin, Virginia.
The film stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke as the Bondurant brothers, Jack, Forest and Howard.
The three brothers run a successful bootleg liquor business from their bar, when Forest hires a new waitress, Maggie, played by Jessica Chastain, Maggie is searching for a new place away from the big city. At the same time, Jack is pursuing his love interest, Bertha, played by Mia Wasikowska who is a preacher’s daughter.
All seems well until special agent Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce, demands a cut of the town’s profits, putting the operation in danger. Many townspeople eventually give in to the intimidating Rakes. The Bondurants refuse to pay, thus becoming primary targets who must now defend what they have built resulting in an action-packed and bloody finale.
The performances, which require a certain persona and accent, are very good, especially LaBeouf who delivers a powerful performance in an unusual role that audiences have not seen in the past.
Hardy also delivers a subtle, yet strong performance as Forest, the eldest Bondurant.
The female characters, played by Chastain and Wasikowska, do their best with their limited amount of development. Pearce plays the perfect villain with his malevolent manner who manages to bring a sense of class to the character.
However, the real star of the film is Cricket, Jack’s best friend, played by Dane DeHaan.
Cricket is an endearing character who emotionally connects with the audience through his friendly and innocent personality.
The best element in this film is the look. Set in the 1930’s, the director does a nice job of placing key details such as cars, signs and even soda bottles that seem straight out of that era into the film. The sets and details immerse the audience into that world.
Of course, no film is perfect. There were some problems, one being the script. It was written by Nick Cave and co-written by Bondurant, relative of the Bondurant clan. Surprisingly, the writing is very choppy and vague. Some of the dialogue is not clearly explained and because of that, the film can be hard to follow at times.
Another problem is the transition between scenes. Some scenes are left unexplored as the film moves on to other situations.
However, the biggest problem lies in the lack of character development, particularly with the female leads. There’s no background, no depth, and therefore no connection with these characters. They show up with no proper introduction.
“Lawless” is an enjoyable film with minor imperfections, while at times very violent, it fulfills its purpose in telling the story and gives some insight to life during the prohibition era.
“Lawless” is directed by John Hillcoat and is rated R for strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity.