director John Hillcoat
Based on the non-fiction book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, Lawless is a prohibition era crime film in which the outlaws are the heroes. Adapted by Nick Cave, who played a similar role in John Hillcoat’s The Proposition (2005), it’s a proven team of collaborators dealing with the gritty, bloody type of story that they’ve been successful with before. Cave also helped score the film, which is never a bad thing either.
On the semi-bad side, the film stars Shia LaBeouf, as the youngest of the Bondurant brothers, the most squeamish and least brawly. He’s kind of the center of the story. Luckily, it also stars Tom Hardy , Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, and Guy Pearce. Most significantly Mr. Hardy, who is one of the better actors coming into his own of late.
The film’s got some brutal moments, most intensely with Hardy’s Forrest Bondurant wields brass knuckles into a couple of fellows’ throats. The film isn’t lacking on impact in that sense, nor is it lacking of an interesting, engaging story.
It’s hard to say exactly what it’s lacking, but it’s lacking something from managing to be more than it is. It has a lot of good things going for it, but as a whole, the film doesn’t pack the punch that Hardy’s steel-coated fist does.
LaBeouf isn’t terrible by any means. In fact, maybe he’s more likable here than in other films. Still, not one of my favorite actors.
The soundtrack is very good, featuring that “old timey” music, though interestingly, Cave has taken a lot of more contemporary songs and re-situated them in the style of the folk music of the time of the film’s setting. My recommendation is to check out the soundtrack and my inclination is to read the book, The Wettest County in the World, which I think would have been a better, more colorful title for the film itself.