“Lawless” is one of those movies that is almost there, good but not great. While strong in some areas, it lacks in others that could have made “Lawless,” flawless.
The film is a classic American tale about the Great Depression and the prohibition of alcohol. The story focuses on the moonshine-smuggling Bondurant brothers, who run the biggest operation in all of Franklin County, Va.
The youngest of the three is Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf, a hotshot entrepreneur who wants to take the family business to new heights and expand it beyond the county lines. Compared to his younger brother, Forrest, the second-oldest, played by Tom Hardy, is quiet and calm and uses intimidation to scare off any threats. The oldest brother Howard, played by Jason Clarke, is the most violent of the three. He rarely speaks and will go on a rampage when needed.
The antagonist of the film is deputy Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce, who wants to permanently end the moonshine business and destroy everything the Bondurant boys have worked for. To make things even more interesting, a legend surrounds the brothers, suggesting they are invincible and can’t be brought down which works itself into the movie and becomes an ongoing theme.
The film shines in the dynamic created among the brothers, whose characters are all well-developed and play off each other in a way that makes their relationships believable. The stellar performances from Hardy and LaBeouf have to be commended as both play their roles perfectly, allowing their characters to develop nicely throughout the plot.
Unfortunately, these performances take the spotlight off other minor characters and keep them from being as fleshed out as they otherwise might be. The motivations of some of the characters become questionable and leave the audience confused as to some of their actions. Another shortcoming is the love interests in the story, which fall into the underdeveloped-character category. The two girls the film focuses on come off as lacking and a little too predictable.
The screenplay, written by songwriter-turned-film-writer Nick Cave who also scored the film with a fitting soundtrack, does a great job sucking the audience into the story and making viewers care about the characters, some more than others. Overall, “Lawless” does a lot to impress with interesting writing and great actors but falls short with the supporting cast.
One word of caution: This movie is violent and anyone who is squeamish will definitely have some trouble stomaching some of its scenes which more than warrant the film’s R rating.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars