Lawless is a movie about the bootlegging industry in Virginia during the Depression. It is based on a true story about the notorious Bondurant brothers who operated illegal stills and fought the corrupt lawmen in their area. The movie only comes to life when the violence flares, and that isn't enough to keep moviegoers entertained. With its outstanding cast, this is a movie that should have been better.
The film is narrated by Shia LeBeouf, the perennially boyish actor who plays youngest Bondurant brother Jack. His brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) is the business leader of the family and his other brother Howard (Jason Clarke) is the muscle. Jack is constantly trying to show he is mature enough to take a bigger role in the business.
The Bondurants have been co-existing with the local Sheriff but then a new lawman is brought into their area. His name is Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) and he tells the Bondurants to ante up more money or be put out of business. The Bondurants refuse and this sets off a war in the mountains.
There are two side stories involving women. Jack is enamored with a local girl who is a preacher's daughter. Her name is Bertha (Mia Wasikowska) and she is attracted to Jack too, but she knows her daddy will never approve. Forrest is attracted to Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a mysterious woman who shows up one day asking for a job. He gives her a job but in doing so places her life in jeopardy from those who want to harm him.
Although the movie is based on a true story, it appears farfetched when watched on screen. One character has his throat cut and still manages to survive; in another scene a character is shot several times but also recovers. Either these people were superhuman or there were some dull knives and weak bullets during this time.
The acting is good but not exceptional. LeBeouf plays Jack like an eager puppy who never matures. Hardy is so low-key as Forrest that he almost doesn't make an impression. Clarke also has little impact with his role, as Howard is not the most verbal of characters.
Gary Oldman plays a crime lord but his role is so brief it is a cameo. Wasikowska's role is bland while Chastain's is fairly dull. There seems to be some potential in her character but it is never developed. Pearce is the actor who makes the biggest and best impression. He creates a unique character who never loses the audiences' interest.
The film is rated R for profanity, nudity and violence.
Lawless is a movie that rests its appeal on the violent content it embraces. Since it is sporadic the rest of the film suffers. The film comes off as one full of potential, but one that never delivers on its promise.
I scored Lawless an illegal 5 out of 10.
Jackie K Cooper