I don’t like Shia LaBeouf. My problem with him is his personality. As an actor there is potential (aside from the Transformers movies) but as a person I just wish he’d just keep his mouth shut. I kind of love the poster to the right. I say kind of because Shia is hanging his head in shame, which is great, but the hat is covering too much of Tom Hardy's face. Speaking of...
I really like Tom Hardy. He’s one of those rare creatures that is equally good in action flicks as well as period dramas. Plus he’s, like, totally hot.
Lawless had the difficult task of getting me past the presence of Shia LaBeouf. The inclusion of Tom Hardy would cancel out a lot of my Shia-hating but there was no guarantee that a violent drama about Prohibition-era bootleggers could rise above the existence of LaBeouf. It did. Guess what else? I think LaBeouf did a pretty good job in it. I was able to get past my dislike of him as a person and remember that there is an actor in there somewhere.
Lawless is about the bootlegging Bondurant brothers of 1920s Virginia. Forrest (Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke), and Jack (LaBeouf) are busy making moonshine and trying to evade the law. The "law" in this film is Special Deputy Charlie Rakes played by an über-creepy Guy Pearce minus some eyebrows. Rakes is new to this part of the country, having just left Chicago to come down to the south to put a stop to the production of alcohol. The movie is fantastic and is filled with superb acting and extreme violence. Regarding the violence...you should be forewarned. They don’t shy away from pain in this film. My friend and I happened to see it at a theater that serves food and alcohol. I’m really glad I chose to not to eat because my food may not have stayed down. I can usually handle movie violence but there were a number of times I closed my eyes.
Lawless was well-crafted in every way. The acting was solid from the three brothers as well as the women in their lives (national treasure, Jessica Chastain and impossibly beautiful without makeup, Mia Wasikowska). Guy Pearce was pitch-perfect, even in a role that was kind of a caricature of the typical, crooked lawman. Gary Oldman even popped up in a few scenes as a notorious gangster who has also left Chicago for rural Virginia. He wasn't in it much but I'm glad to get a few scenes of Oldman whenever possible.
The story is one that we’ve seen before but is given a bit more gravity since it’s based on actual events. Get this, Nick Cave wrote it! The Nick Cave musician guy from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds. Anyone?!?! They did "Red Right Hand." I know you know it. I had no idea he was a screenwriter. Anywhoodle, what I found most intriguing was how the actors portrayed these characters. LaBeouf did well as Jack, the bumbling, awkward, youngest brother. And I believed his journey through the film. When Jack reached his highpoint in the movie I was right there with him. But really the best reason to see Lawless is Tom Hardy. He has a total of maybe 25 words but they’re not needed. The man grunts his way through the film and does it in such a way that you know what each grunt means. The receiving end of many of those grunts is Maggie, played by the fabulous Chastain. Maggie is new to town, having recently left…say it with me…CHICAGO!
There were so many satisfying elements of the movie. I loved the pacing, which was done very well. I loved the few moments of levity that were natural and a needed break from the violence. I especially loved the way they lit the final scene between LaBeouf and Pearce. Both men were in shadow but you easily knew who was who.
I don't think many people will make the effort to see this in the theater so I'm hoping it does alright when it's available to rent. Don't let Shia LaDouche, er, LaBeouf, keep you from seeing it.