August. The perpetual dice roll for the movie year. We can get some great films (Scott Pilgrim), or some truly terrible ones (Shark Night 3D). So far, this August the only decent film to come out is Lawless. While not the best film in the world, you could find worse ways to spend an hour and a half.
The plot centers around one family, the Bondurants, and their moonshine business. It takes a peculiar approach for gangster films, as it doesn’t feature many gangsters. These three brothers are merely business men who go outside the law. You have Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy), and Howard (Jason Clarke). A new woman comes to help at their restaurant, named Maggie (Jessica Chastain). The three brothers have to deal with a new federal agent though, named Charlie (Guy Pearce). The plot is straight forward, and rather simple. But sometimes we need movies to be straight forward, and not try to reinvent the wheel. Forrest’s story line with Charlie is fun to watch, and plays out like gangster films of old. Where the movie encounters problems is when it decides to focus on Jack’s love story. It’s generic as love stories go, and has nothing to add to this movie. Jack’s an unlikable guy, and Lawless gives the audience zero reasons to root for him. The love story acts as plot A, while the moonshine business is plot B. If these two plots could have switched, the movie would have been more enjoyable. Gary Oldman is also in the movie as a famous gangster, but he is gone as quickly as he appears.
While the audience likes Forrest and his family due to their virtues, and being the only uncorrupt people in town, the audience doesn’t feel for them as characters. Character development is kept to a minimum, instead focusing on LaBeouf’s bad plot line. This hurts Pearce’s character the most, as the audience doesn’t see any motivation for Pearce to hate the family. Money could be his motivation, but we need more than that. Forrest and Maggie’s relationship comes out of nowhere, and doesn’t add anything. Oldman’s gangster part was an interesting turn for Lawless, and left me wishing he had a bigger part in the movie. The film makers could have delved into the false dreams we make for ourselves and how sometimes what we have is better than what we could have. But instead we have to see LaBeouf pine over a girl.
The film is rather gruesome. There are plenty of big fight scenes, and many of them end with CGI blood. Not much of this makes it onto the actors clothes mind you, but it is there. John Hillcoat’s direction is nothing to write h0me about.
The acting department is a mixed bag. Many of the actors give it their all, even though the script gives them next to nothing to work with. Tom Hardy has the best accent in the movie, showing how incredibly talented he is at voice work. But even he is somewhat flat, but that could be due to the script. Jessica Chastain is likable, but her chemistry with Hardy isn’t there. They are supposed to be interested in each other, but the audience can’t feel it. Guy Pearce seems to be having a great time as the villain. A better idea would have been to have Pearce and Hardy square off against each other more. Then there is Shia LaBeouf. His southern accent is bad, and seems like an impression instead of a real accent. LaBeouf needs to watch out, or he is going to start getting typecast as the guy who destroys everyone’s plans. I’m sure I have seen him play this type of role in a few other films. But he does get the crap beat out of him well. When Pearce kicks his ass, LaBeouf drew the audience more than the rest of his performance.
Lawless is an ok film. With the recent releases not entertaining as much as we’d like, there are worse ways to spend $8.
Lawless gets 3/5.
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