‘Lawless’ Movie Review: A Beautiful Slow-Paced Gangster Film
Before you go and see Lawless this weekend, I should warn you that the trailer for the film might give you a different idea of what it really is. It isn’t as “mainstream” of a gangster movie as you would expect from the cut and soundtrack, and while Lawless has some very graphic violence, it is a slow-paced gangster film mostly focused on character development. But for me that wasn’t a bad thing at all, in fact I think I enjoyed it even more because of it.
Lawless is based on the novel The Wettest County In The World by Matt Bondurant, which tells the true story of the Bondurant brothers who were bootleggers during the Prohibition-era in Virginia. Dubbed as indestructible by middle brother, Forrest (Tom Hardy), who survived the Spanish Flu that took his parents, we meet eldest brother Howard (Jason Clarke), the only survivor of his battalion during the Great War, and youngest, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), who is the most naive and sensitive of the three.
The three brothers have been making a really good living through their bootlegging business lead by Forrest, but everything changes with the arrival of Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) from Chicago. The immoral and corrupt Rakes will stop at nothing to breakdown the brothers, but while the rest of the county gives in to Rakes, the brothers decide to stand their ground.
Unfortunately, this also leads to conflict between the three. Jack decides to take their bootlegging business into his own hands with the help of his friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan) against Forrest’s wishes. And that’s only the beginning. The brothers are traveling down a path that endangers them all and everyone around them.
I really liked Lawless, but it was the most stressful movie I’ve seen this year. I was tensed almost during the whole movie mostly because something could happen at any point. I really believe that director John Hillcoat took all the tension that he put in his previous post-apocalyptic movie The Road and poured it in here. I cannot remember being so on the edge of my seat/cannot sit still for any other movie this year. So if you need to watch something relaxing, Lawless might not be the film to see. Apart from the tension, Lawless is slow paced, but in a good way. We get a sense of who these brothers are and their place in the world at that point in time.
The cast is led by Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy whose characters are at the forefront of the story. Both deliver strong performances in their own rights. But I particularly enjoyed Jason Clarke’s performance as Howard. While his character is not given as much screen time as the other two, every time he was on, there was this feeling of something broken in him that seeped through and gave it an extra layer.
In addition to the three of them, it’s important to also note Guy Pearce’s chilling performance as Rakes, as well as a great cast roundup with Gary Oldman as Floyd Banner, a big city gangster, Jessica Chastain as Maggie, the woman who comes to work for the boys, and Mia Wasikowska as Bertha Jack’s love interest.
Overall, Lawless is a great slow paced, character driven gangster film. If that’s something that appeals to you then, this is the movie to see this weekend (well this week really since it’s comes out today, Wednesday August 29th).
You can watch the trailer for the film, as well as check out more photos here.
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