¨It is not the violence that sets men apart, alright, it is the distance that he is prepared to go.¨
Lawless is a terrific action drama set in the depression era in a small Virginia town. The cinematography in this film is beautiful; I just love movies set in this period when they have a good story like this one. Lawless is based on the novel written by Matt Bondurant, ¨The Wettest County in the World,¨ the grandson of one of the characters in this film, and it claims to be based on a true story. The screenplay was adapted by Nick Cave, and the film directed by John Hillcoat (The Road). I was instantly won over by Lawless as soon as I saw the talented cast that was involved. Shia LaBeouf may have the lead role, but he is outshined by Tom Hardy who is the heart and soul of this movie. The rest of the cast was also excellent with Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan (the young Leonardo Di Caprio look alike from Chronicle), Gary Oldman, and Guy Pearce who plays the villain to perfection here. Gary Oldman is always great, but my only complaint here is that he gets as much screen time in the movie as he does in the trailer. He could´ve been used much more here, although I understand that there were a lot of different things going on. There was one terrific and brutal scene thirty minutes into the movie that really caught my attention and picked up the story from that point forward. It was the turning point for me. Hardy was the rock of this film and he absolutely nailed his role convincing the audience of the legends surrounding his character. I had some trouble with his grumpy voice at times understanding what he was saying, but his performance was spectacular nonetheless. In a way he reminded me of Ryan Gosling in Drive.
The story takes place during the prohibition era in Franklin County, Virginia where the three Bondurant brothers, Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke), and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) run a bootlegging business with the compliance of the local authorities. Jack´s close friend, Cricket (Dane DeHaan), a young teenager who couldn’t hurt a fly is responsible for the moonshine production for which he`s very talented. At the same time, city girl Maggie (Jessica Chastain) shows up in the small town looking for a job at the local bar that Forrest runs. Trouble arises when a new Special Deputy arrives in town from Chicago. His name is Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), and he wants a bigger share in the Bondurant´s profits. Rakes is eccentric and crooked, but he isn’t intimidated by these brothers. The rest of the town believes in the legend that Forrest is immortal after having survived several life threatening experiences (even Forrest himself believes this). Forrest is perhaps the only one in the town that stands up against Rakes and defies him. The younger brother, Jack, initially is the most timid one, but after falling for the local preacher´s daughter, Bertha (Mia Wasikowska) and scoring an important business deal with a famous mobster named Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) he begins to transform himself into quite a respectable lad. The problem is that Rakes is keeping a close watch on their business and waiting for the perfect opportunity to intervene.
Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy`s characters are probably the best developed in the story. Shia goes through the greatest transformation, while Hardy remains the same always projecting this in control and cool persona. He truly believes he`s immortal like the rest of the town. Jason Clarke is probably the least developed character along with Gary Oldman who really has very little screen time (a real shame). Guy Pearce is very cynical and twisted minded. He made for a perfect villain. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska both projected beauty and innocence in their roles. The cast was really great in this. I also loved the music and score that accompanied the film. The drama and action played out really well with a couple of violent and bloody scenes. There were several sub plots going on as well with the love interest between Jack and Bertha, and Forrest and Maggie. The legend behind these three men is probably what makes the film stand out story wise and puts Forrest on top of my favorite characters list for 2012. Lawless is a film you won´t want to miss.