Lawless Review

Reviews Films


Set in Virginia during the depression, and based on the true story of the Bondurants brothers – three rural bootleggers who defied the crooked authorities that wanted a piece of their profits. Jack, the youngest, aspires to live in the suited-up ranks of Al Capone, Howard, the middle, is a reckless brute, and Forrest, the eldest, heads the family operation against the changing times. As the brothers’ legacy grows, so do the risks. This marks the second collaboration between director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave, the first being the well-received Aussie western The Proposition.

‘Lawless’ comes from director John Hillcoat following his 2009’s post-extinction event film ‘The Road’, and is based on the novel “The Wettest County in the World” by Matt Bondurant with a screenplay written by Nick Cave for the film adaptation. ‘Lawless’ tells the depression-era tale of three brothers contending with corrupt law enforcement trying to muscle their way into the brothers successful moonshine business during prohibition.

Hillcoat puts his visual talent on display as ‘Lawless’ makes excellent use of its landscapes and sets to capture the feel of the ‘era in which the film is set. There’s a sense of tangibility to be found here that heightens the physical gritty nature of the film.

In his first feature film since ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, ‘Lawless’ is largely centred around Shia LaBeouf’s character in what could be the first of several roles leading to LaBeouf’s acting redemption. Away from dazzling effects and demanding action sequences here LaBeouf is able to focus on depicting a character with substance, and a certain sweetness which he does so convincingly. The real stand outs here though are Guy Pierce who is limited to a character that is more style than substance but delivers what is likely to be one of the most hated characters on screens all year and the ever reliable Tom Hardy who manages to balance a subtle yet fiercely protective character in what is a reserved character performance.

The film is generally a slow burn but never fails to hold interest along the way, it does not feature elaborate sequences however it brings with it a brutal heavy hitting violence that leaves a big impact in its wake despite being depicted in short bursts or in one instance mostly implied rather than depicted on screen.

Nick Cave and John Hillcoat have taken on what is a fairly difficult task of managing a large number of characters and their complex relationships in this tale, with the majority of the characters being given substance but not without compromises along the way. Some of the character arcs remain quite superficial, others could be removed without detracting much from the film at all, but overall ‘Lawless’ walks a well-balanced line between immersing itself amongst the three brothers, the larger conspiracy, and some romantic arcs that while under serviced, still managed to add an element of drama and sweetness where needed.

Amongst the gravity of the situation faced by the central characters ‘Lawless’ still manages to inject some much needed humour at various times which played off well against the audience in this particular preview screening.

‘Lawless’ is well deserving of a viewing, its a little weighed down but its ambition but it delivers good performances, an interesting tale, and a grounded setting. Just be aware the violence depicted also packs a punch.

I’m giving it 7 out of 10 stars, ‘Lawless’ will be released on screens around Australia on Thursday 11th October 2012.

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.