I Saw A Film Today… Lawless

Poor Shia LaBeouf. He has so much… potential to be a noteworthy actor. If only he would stop taking roles that have him portraying whiny and pathetic boys. Loser, to put it simply. Even in Transformers, where the possibility of being cool or an action hero is within grasp, he transforms into a little boy about to wee himself. I had hopes that his most recent film, Lawless, would be a new start for him. But after seeing his character poster, I felt that was a long stretch. And I was right.

During Prohibition, the Bondurant brothers are one of many successful moonshiners in the hills of Franklin County, Virginia. Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) run the stills and the business end while Jack (LaBeouf) and his friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan) do the distribution. They also own an outpost convenience store, which is being run by a former dancer from Chicago named Maggie (Jessica Chastain). Yep, life is purdy good. There’s no way things could turn sour, right?

Well, things turn sour when special agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) comes to town to get a cut of all the moonshiners’ profits. Every shiner agrees to it but, you guessed it, the Bondurant boys. Rakes puts pressure on the brothers to conform, with both sides at times taking to violence to prove their dominance in the region. Who will win?

Lawless is a stylish film with some fantastic performances from the cast, but doesn’t have much more to give. The story is very loose and doesn’t have much structure. Things happen. Then this other semi-cohesive thing happens. And some other things happen. You lose all interest in what happens to the good ole boys before the climatic and inevitable battle near the end. Everything gets lost in this frantic and scrambled story.

This film is also hyper-violent. I have not squirmed this much watching someone get their throat slit since viewing Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. I don’t have a problem with hyper-violence in films, usually. Some films incorporate extreme depictions of violence into their story successfully and make it almost a necessity. A good example would be last years Drive. The violence in that film is graphic and shocking but part of the gritty world within that film. Lawless doesn’t do that. My guess is director John Hillcoat, who made the excellent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s  The Road, intended to show how bloody the feud between the law and the Bondurants was but he never accomplishes this.

As I stated earlier, one of the few things that kept this film afloat was the acting. Tom Hardy has a fine performance here, which is quite an accomplishment when you realize most of his lines in the film are simply grunts. Who else could evoke such emotion through a simple grunt? Jessica Chastain is also great, yet I do question exactly why she was needed in this film. This goes for Mia Wasikowka also. Possibly to give the men reason for what they do? Or maybe because you just need some ladies to fill out the voids. Or possibly just to get Chastain out of her shirt. Who knows.

Guy Pearce does a good job here as well but ultimately gets weighed down by his character’s many odd eccentricities. He strolls into Franklin County like a pampered and psychotic dandy, someone who deserves to be killed based solely on his creepy and demeaning nature. He would be truly sinister if he didn’t give the impression that he had never actually fired the shiny revolver in his holster.

Gary Oldman makes an appearance as well as a big name gangster. But much like Chastain and Wasikowka,  I wonder why he is even here. He doesn’t truly contribute anything of significance to the story other than I would have rather seen a film that focused on his exploits. And I guess I must bring up Mr. LaBeouf. He portrays the weakling little brother and really does nothing but stir trouble and be a bumbling loser. Nothing you haven’t seen from him before.

Lawless would have probably been a great film if it had a solid story. But it doesn’t and it ultimately folds under its flaws.

Verdict: RENT IT

*Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity. 115 minutes.

** Poster by Dongyun Lee.

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2 Responses to “I Saw A Film Today… Lawless”

  1. PaulGHannigan Says:

    Not a solid story you say, but you do realize that this movie is based on a book which is based on a true story….right?

    • Kevin Entrekin Says:

      Oh really, that whole bit at the beginning that stated the film was “based on a true story” wasn’t just for show? No foolin’?
      And you do realize that just because a movie is based on a true story doesn’t mean that it translates well to film or that many aspects can be romanticized or falsified for ascetic reasons? That is why it is “based” on a true story, not a direct documentation.

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