Tuesday, September 04, 2012


This is the first of two big Mafia related flicks that are due out over the next year or so.  You may have heard about Gangster Squad starring Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Josh Brolin. After the incident in Colorado Warner Brothers flipped out and cut a scene of a violent shoot out at a movie theatre from the film and moved the date to January 2013. I personally think they were overreacting but I'm sure Lawless is happy to have them move to keep the momentum on them for a while as it was supposed to be released this coming Friday the 7th of September.  Lawless is the first real commercial film for Director John Hillcoat who is known for his gritty, dark and bloody Indie films like the Road and the Proposition. He is joined again with his screenwriter Nick Cave who also wrote the bad ass western the Proposition. Lawless is a cross between Public Enemy and Boardwalk Empire. It didn't have the most audacious open but it was solid enough, it'll be interesting to see how it fares once the September films start heating up.
This is amazingly a true story based on the book The Wettest County in the World, written by Matt Bondurant about his Grandfather and his brothers Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clark) during Prohibition. These three brothers ran a tight operation of Moonshine distribution in Franklin, Virginia until a corrupt Lawman Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) decides to wet his beak by force. A gang war of sorts is begun between the slick Chicago lawman and the backwoods rednecks the Bondurants.
Right off the bat you could see one of Hillcoat's strengths is visuals and atmosphere. Being a native of North Carolina and a relative Virginian as well as a frequent traveler, it had the feeling of being in the Smoky Mountains. The cast was pretty fantastic even Shia was pretty good and that's saying something. Like Public Enemy you get a sense of Americana when times are tough and these guys are doing what they can to get by. They are proud and stubborn but interesting and they don't like to be told what to do. Especially Tom Hardy's Forrest he doesn't say much but what he doesn't say speaks volumes about his character. It is amazing what this guy goes through and somehow finds a way to survive. If it wasn't a true story I might have called bullshit a few times in there. It is pretty incredible. While Shia's Jack can't ever shut the hell up. He's impetuous and he's always at the forefront of all the problems the Brothers encounter. He can't be held fully responsible for his character's actions since that is how he's supposed to be but damn he plays that obnoxious confidence with ease. His moments with love interest Bertha (Mia Wasilkowska) were fun as she is wooed over to the dark side from what I assume is her devout Quaker Father. Part of me enjoyed Guy Pearce's relentless beat down on Jack cause let's face it some times Shia just deserves a few kicks to the gut. He played an evil bastard nancy boy masterfully. Such a bazaar performance but certainly effective. He could get a surprise Oscar nod down the road.  I also thought Jessica Chastain was great as Maggie, it was a small role but she mixed it up with the brothers nicely. The pacing wasn't bad but I felt they focused a bit too much on Jack and I was disappointed that they didn't extend the bubble out to Forrest and Howard who were many ways much more interesting. Which brings me to the weakest part of the film, the relationship between the Brothers. The connection between the three of them felt more stilted then brotherly and when the action starts up and they are under siege they begin to feel more like close friends then siblings. I thought the relationship between Jack and Cricket Pate (Dane DeHaan) was more brotherly than the actual brothers and he was just a family friend who was the genius behind their special batch of Moonshine. I also was disappointed that Gary Oldman's Floyd Banner didn't have much to do. He shows up shooting his Tommy Gun and then disappears for most of the film only to turn up briefly again halfway through. I mean it's great to get Oldman for the role but it was so inconsequential yet he played it so well it just sucked to see him in what really amounts to a cameo role. It is a brutal flick that certainly rivals the violence of Boardwalk Empire but it's a worthy action drama in the realm of Bonnie and Clyde and Public Enemy.  If you get a chance to check this out you won't be disappointed.
Grade: 3 Buckets

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