I spent a bit of time thinking how to give a reader a comprehensive review of Lawless. John Hillcoat (The Road) and Nick Cave (musician from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) have taken a story of three brothers in Appalachian Virginia during prohibition and made it a nearly heartless endeavor. I expected Untouchables from the trailers, I got instead the a watered down redneck version of Bonnie and Clyde.
Set in the heart of the Prohibition era we are introduced to the Bondurant brothers, Howard (Jason Clarke), Forrest (Tom Hardy), and the runt of the litter Jack (Shia LeBouf). The brothers decide to tell the ‘nancy’ city boy detective that they will not pay off anyone to continue to run their moonshine operation. The war ensues. I wish I could say the movie had more complexity than that, but at the end of the day it does not. There are subplots within the film that make you either smile or want to beat Shia into a pulp.
When I said the film is nearly heartless that is true, the only true heart of the film comes from the sublime performance brought by Tom Hardy. If you are a Tom Hardy completist, you need to see this film. In his role as Forrest, you see a man of many layers, few words and a pair of handy brass knuckles. When he is on screen you not only need to watch him for the subtlety he puts into the performance, but you want to watch him for all he brings. Even his relationship with city girl turned country girl Maggie (Jessica Chastain), brings levels of emotion to the film that just sort of is a paint by numbers affair.
I have read reviews where they praise Shia for his acting. I wonder what film they watched. I saw much of the usual Shia antics believing he knows better than everyone around him and everyone but him being forced to pay a high, and in one notable case the ultimate, price.
The final beats of the movie seem to take away from all the trial and tribulation enforced by the past two hours leaving me feeling wholly unsatisfied. I overall walked out of the film going “So that happened…” or..”Meh”
Give Lawless a pass, unless you have a love affair with any of the actors within.