“Lawless” is a raw and authentic film about back woods moonshiners who made some good money during prohibition. John Hillcoat, the director of such films as “The Road” and “The Proposition”, brings his hard edged brand to the real life story of the Bondurant brothers who operated during a time when alcohol was illegal.
Tom Hardy, Shia Lebeouf, and Jason Clarke play Forrest, Jack and Howard Bondurant. Together they run a moonshine operation in a backwater town in prohibition era Virginia. Forrest and Howard are violent men who have no problem visciously murdering those who cross them, including the law. Jack definitley does not possess the nerve or the violent tendacies of his older brothers.
Things are good until a particularly nasty federal agent comes to town determined to shut them down. He is Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce in a very slimy performance. He also has no problem torturing and even murdering people to get the results he wants. At one point he makes the term ‘tarred and feathered’ no longer a funny sounding prank.
The performances are all quite powerful, esspecially Tom Hardy as Forrest, the eldest brother. He has a quietness about him in most scenes but can quickly transition in to a fierce killing machine. He also has an odd way of grunting when he is not sure what to say that gets a few surprising laughs.
The whole production is very authentic. You can tell that the set designers, costume department and locations really put the effort in to making this time and place look as real as possible.
My problem with the film is that the story just never really seems focused. Characters seem to drift in and out of the story without making much of a mark. I also found the ending kind of a let down to be honest. I was hoping for more than just a bloody shoot out but it is what it is.
I guess in the end I admired more of the craft and the performances than anything. It is definitley not one of Hilcoats best films but does provide some nice adult entertainment in a summer full of super hero films.