Bootlegging dramas come with a built-in sympathy clause in their contracts with the audience. C'mon! they plead. All these folks want is to get the government off their backs, follow their American dream and provide liquor to the masses. And by the way, wasn't Prohibition a joke?
Yes, and a bloody one, eternally ripe for the movies.
This should've been a really good picture, especially with Hillcoat's crack ensemble. Instead it's a stilted battle waged between the material and the interpreters. It's up to you, the thirsty customer, to decide who won.
Tom Hardy is the reason to see it, though as a shady Chicago burlesque dancer who falls in with the Bondurant crew, the luminous Jessica Chastain doesn't hurt. The focal point of the story may be the youngest Bondurant, Jack, played by
They're good family men, just looking out for themselves and willing to do what it takes in the Great Depression to stay afloat. As Forrest utters at one self-conscious point: "It is not the violence that sets a man apart. It's the distance he's prepared to go." Then, to mess it all up, The Government arrives, in the persona of a Chicago "special agent" played by an outrageously slimy
"Lawless" is considerably gory and often extreme in its acts of carnage. At the film's premiere at the 2012
Hardy is so charismatic, though, you may stick with "Lawless" through thick and thin anyway. (Or as Mel Brooks used to say, "through thin.") LaBeouf tops the billing and narrates this heavily romanticized tale, but Hardy anchors and dominates the proceedings, with his brass knuckles and amusing bearlike grunts of displeasure or doubt. Each scene is set off on its own, pristinely staged. Even a few more extras milling around, looking for work or ducking the bullets, would've helped "Lawless," which is very consciously more fable than fully fleshed historical fiction.
'Lawless' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity)
Running time: 1:55