Director/Studio/Author: John Hillcoat/Pie Films, Inc./Nick Cave
American release date: August 29, 2012
Format, Genre and length: Theatre/Historical Action/115 minutes
Publisher/Industry Age Rating: R
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★
The Bondurant brothers—Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke), and Jack (Shia LaBeouf)—are getting along as best they can in depression-era Virginia. They run a little diner and gas station in Franklin, but they have a more lucrative source of income that involves running moonshine. They don’t have to worry about the law—not only is the local constabulary in the know, but they’re also customers.
Legend has it that the Bondurants are invincible, and sometimes the boys believe that story themselves. Forrest is short on words, but what he does say carries a punch. Jack is still young, but he’s eager to learn and he hates the way that they often blow him off. He plots and schemes with his best friend, a crippled young man named Cricket who’s a mechanical genius, experimenting with making his own brand of white lightning. When he first spies Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska), he is smitten with the young girl. Unfortunately for him, she’s the daughter of a very protective minister, and when Jack shows up unexpectedly at one of their services, he’s not prepared to have his feet washed by Bertha, and bolts from the premises as though a fire was lit under him.
Bad news arrives in Franklin in the form of a new special agent, Charlie Brakes (Guy Pearce), who’s determined to do things his way, and to have everybody in the county knuckle under to his rule. He is a nasty piece of work, and right away he and the Bondurants butt heads.
A young woman named Maggie (Jessica Chastain) shows up one day looking for work, and Forrest hires her when she tells him she’s tired of life in the big city, she’s looking for something easier.
One day Jack witnesses a remarkable sight. He spies a man with a Tommy gun shoot up a man in cold blood. He knows who the killer is—the infamous Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). He makes eye contact with Banner and the killer winks at him before he drives away. Later, when due to circumstances their paths cross again, that first meeting will stand Jack in good stead.
When the rest of Franklin gives in to Brakes and his bullying tactics, the Bondurants refuse to cave and find themselves standing alone. Jack is determined to pull his weight, so that he can be worthy of courting Bertha, even if he does run when he sees her preacher father heading in his direction. He gets his chance to shine when Forrest unexpectedly ends up in the hospital, showing that he is true Bondurant material. The brothers are doing well for themselves, but how long can that affluence last when Brakes is bound and determined that they will knuckle under to his authority?
Based on a true story, this is a tale of three brothers and their struggle to survive during hard times. The tagline for this film is: When the law became corrupt, outlaws became heroes. I read a criticism of the film, before I saw it, and one of the comments involved Tom Hardy’s accent, claiming it was thick, and hard to understand, and not well done, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. I had no problem understanding him, and I thought his portrayal of Forrest Bondurant was well done. In fact, my daughter, who watched the movie with me, said she thought he could have used a little more of an accent, not less. I recently saw Tom in Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and that character and this were totally worlds apart. He has a rather chameleon-like quality, similar to another actor in TTSS, who also plays in Lawless, veteran actor Gary Oldman. Of Mr. Oldman’s performance, all I can say is I wish he’d had more scenes; he lights up the screen every time he’s on it. I liked Jason Clarke as the often volatile Howard. I used to watch him in Brotherhood, and before that I saw him in the film Rabbit Proof Fence. You wouldn’t know he’s Australian; he does accents very well indeed. Shie LaBoeuf is great as the young, up and coming Jack Bondurant. I loved his scenes with his friend Cricket, as well as his wooing of the young religious girl, played by Mia Wasikowska, whom I saw in Jane Eyre and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
I enjoyed the plot and the writing, and there are some rather stunning visuals in this film. I grew to like and root for the Bondurants, and I prayed that they would not come to a bad end. If you want to know whether they do or not, you’ll have to see the film. Lawless is a violent film, so I wouldn’t recommend it for young children, but teenagers and up should be fine. I rate this film 4 stars.