By Sarah George
I had never heard of “Lawless” until a few days before I saw it.
It didn’t seem like a movie I would jump at the chance to go and see, but those sneaky Hollywood producers managed to credit an all-star cast that deemed this movie as a “must-see.” Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Shia Labeouf, Dane Dehaan Pane, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain star in this film.
Adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel “The Wettest Country in the World,” Lawless tells the true tale of the Bondurant Brothers during America’s largest crime wave.
The Bondurant Brothers ran a flourishing business selling illegal moonshine and other alcohol across Virginia. Forest Bondurant (Hardy) is the head of their gang, with Howard (Clarke) as his main assistant and Jack (Labeouf) as their driver.
The brothers use a bar as a front for their business with the help of a disabled boy named Cricket (Dehaan Pane), one of the geniuses behind their popular products. The wrath of one of the Bondurant Brothers’ biggest competitors, Floyd Banner (Oldman), introduces the conflict between the law and the moonshine bootleggers.
Upon learning of Banner’s warrant for arrest, an abominable human being, Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Pearce), stops by the brothers’ bar and threatens their business, threatening to shut it down if he doesn’t receive a percentage of their illegal profits.
Refusing to give into Rakes’ demands, a series of threats occur, leading into a war between the bootleggers, bar owners and the corrupt police department.
There are a handful of issues that hindered the film. The southern accents often made it difficult to understand the dialogue, in addition to low audio levels.
While the film was a little on the long side (about two hours), the action carried the film without completely overpowering it as you would expect from the gangster sub-genre. It was however, as expected, still very violent and gory.
However, the emotional foundation of this script was unexpected. Considering it is based around a gangster war, I assumed it would be much more action-based.
Another unanticipated attribute was how the screenplay incorporated the legend of the Bondurant Brothers’ “invincibility.” This concept helped to drive the story, without weakening the characters or fabricating unrealistic assumptions about them.
For example, Jack, the youngest brother, spends the majority of the movie trying to prove his value to the business and that he would survive on his own. In addition to his physical invincibility being tested, Forest’s emotional wall was also challenged by his affections towards the bar waitress Maggie Beauford, played by Jessica Chastain.
The dialogue allowed the actors to explore the characters, fashion genuine personalities for them and as stated in the tagline, transform the “outlaws [into] heroes.”
Though there was a distinction between the two sides, it could even be said that both fighting sides were “lawless” and that the audience found itself rooting against “the law.” It was interesting to see each of the characters fight against their own version of “the law,” whether it was their own expectations for themselves, their brothers, parents or the actual law.
While it did provide some suspense, the dialogue sometimes made the story difficult to follow. The stellar acting and outstanding direction carried the film, keeping it to some extent enjoyable to watch. It’s brought a fresh concept to the box office, and while it wasn’t as epic as it could have been, I think it’s at least worth a watch. Lawless is rated R for language, violence and some brief nudity. .