Fantastic career-making performances. Beautifully constructed environments and scenery. Engaging story from the east coast about family, friends, and corruption during the Prohibition-era. If you add all of these elements together, you basically have the hit series The Boardwalk Empire. Lawless, on the other hand, is another creature entirely.
Lawless takes place in the gorgeous setting known as Virginia Hills, where law enforcement seems to have a taken a blind eye to the vast amounts of bootlegging going on in the forest, for a price of course. One of the key players is a notorious family known as the Bondurants, which are known for their ferocity and claims of immortality.
The eldest brother, Forrest (Tom Hardy), is known as the head of the family/business, along with rumors of being indestructible. The middle brother, Howard (Jason Clarke) is known more for his savage nature and brute strength, and less for his intelligence and wit. The youngest of the bunch, Jack (Shia LeBeouf), is the runt of the litter, not quite having an overabundance of intelligence or physical strength, but what he lacks in all of the above, he more than makes up for in ambition and resourcefulness.
The bootlegging business is great for the Bondurant Brothers until an obstacle appears in the form of a fast-talking and deeply corrupt new deputy named Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), who has come to “take care” of the situation. There is only one way a crooked government official knows how to solve a problem like this, and that’s through extortion. Egos are bruised, fighting words are exchanged, and a town goes to war. Corrupt law enforcement against outlaws. This is just a lose-lose situation for all.
This film was basically born with a silver spoon in its mouth, and with the amazing cast (including Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowski, and Gary Oldman) based on a great story by writer Matt Bondurant, and directed (John Hillcoat) by a man who has given us great films such as The Road and The Proposition, it had every possibility of becoming a legend. Instead, the story was wild, savage, unpredictable, and gruesome. It’s a shame that something so masterfully crafted, like the sets and scenery, could at the same time be so ugly. This film was very ambitious in its approach, trying to aim for a deeper meaning, but instead falling short and somehow drowning in its shallow shores.
While Lawless was beautiful to watch, and the performances were inspiring to see, the story itself was shallow and scattered.
Rating: 6/10 ★★★★★★