I know Tom Hardy is the actor everyone is all excited about, and he's
riding high on a wave of big movie roles this year, but, no matter how
much I might hate saying it, Shia LaBeouf is the actor who surprises in
Based on a true story, LaBeouf is Jack Bondurant - the youngest of
three moonshine running brothers in Franklin, Virginia during The
Depression. The family is led by Forrest (Tom Hardy), who has become
something of a local legend as an invincible man who has withstood
danger and physical harm beyond the capacity of any normal human, but
the storm clouds of change are blowing (and so is my hyperbole and
attempts to ramp up the excitement level of this movie review).
A new tough guy is trying to take over the moonshine business in this
part of rural Virginia, but The Bondurants don't have any interest in
letting anyone push them aside;
Jack is trying to make his mark in the business with a strange ally;
An enforcer, Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), is attempting to bully the
family into compliance;
And a strange new sexy woman, Maggie (Jessica Chastain), has wandered
Will The Bondurants
be able to continue with their elicit business ventures?
is a movie where director John Hillcoat is enamored with the violence
and tries to portray it in the most vividly visual ways you can
imagine, but he should have put more work into telling the story. The
salaciousness might help sell some tickets, but every character could
be used better.
Pearce and Gary Oldman are absolutely amazing in small roles that
should have been so much larger. Pearce gets plenty of screen time as
the demented enforcer tasked with intimidating The Bondurants, and the
levels of evil he is willing to bring to the character are shocking.
The actor gives Rakes a truly frightening and odd personality that
captivates the audience every time he is on screen and excelling far
beyond what other castmembers are delivering. It's Guy Pearce's world,
and the rest of the cast is lucky to be living in it.
Meanwhile, Oldman is reveling in playing an old time gangster, Floyd
Banner, complete with a vicious accent and mustache. Maybe he wasn't
available for more filming, but the audience is left wanting too much
more when Banner doesn't appear in more than a few scenes.
Yet, LaBeouf almost makes Lawless
a strong movie. He has a knack for being the sniveling underdog, and
makes us take notice as Jack starts to spread his wings and emerge from
his brother's shadow. He brings equals parts naivete, business
brilliance and misguided cockiness to a character who could be much
more annoying, but still needs to be a little annoying.
Unfortunately, so much story is begging to be told, while Hillcoat and
writer Nick Cave showcase the bullets, blood and guts. The brothers
have an intricate and interesting relationship, two of them have
romantic entanglements that define them in ways we never get to
appreciate and the moment in history is never explained beyond the
is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some