Lawless Review by Kenneth Alexander Vazquez
I was told not too long ago by a good friend of mines that sometime last year actors Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception, Warriors, The Dark Knight Rises) and Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Eagle Eye) were involved in an altercation which resulted in Hardy beating the "Even Stevens" out of LaBeouf.
Whatever the facts are, that beating must have left quite the impression on Shia and on his rather solid performance in the period drama LAWLESS.
Director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) brings his gritty yet softly photographed vision of the Depression era county of Franklin, Virginia, where the infamous Bondurant Brothers and their moonshine bootlegging operation came under fire by a sadistic deputy and crooked authorities. Taking place mostly in the backwoods of Virginia, LAWLESS features locations that are characters themselves. With a barn turned into a distillery, a bar/gas station in the middle of nowhere, a quaint Amish community and a forgotten poor town touched by the harshness of the times, this film does quite the job in taking the viewers to one of the saddest and bloodiest moments in US history.
It takes a cast as tough, resilient and smart as the people of those times to give this kind of film a voice. Tom Hardy leads the Bondurant Bros as the second oldest and resourceful of the three, Forrest. Tom is been delivering one powerful performance after the other and his passive yet "invincible" portrayal of a bootlegger with principles just cements his successful acting streak. Shia LaBeouf shocked and surprised the whiskey out of me with his nuanced and solid performance as Jack Bondurant. As the youngest, Shia is a man who seeks to be his brother's equal and make a name for himself in the family business while making time for a possible love life.
Jason Clark (Public Enemies, Death Race) plays the oldest brother, Howard, who's the muscle, hot headed loyal member of the gang. Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) appears as family friend and expert brewer Cricket Pate. The enigmatic Gary Oldman turns up in a bad ass extensive cameo as the notorious gangster and moonshine trafficker Floyd Banner. Jessica Chastain (The Debt, The Tree of Life, Coriolanus, The Help), who's been in a variety of notable roles, plays Maggie Beauford, a woman trying to leave her shady past behind. The gorgeously supple and gifted Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre) plays the sweet and sharp witted preacher's daughter and romantic interest of LaBeouf's character.
Of all these very talented actors the one who stood out the most is the always brilliant Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential, Memento, The Proposition, Ravenous, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Time Machine, Lockout, Prometheus). As Special Deputy Charlie Rakes, who's a manic obsessive and deplores being touched, Guy plays the greasiest and most twisted role to date. Truly the highlight of the film.
From brutal stabbings, intense shoot outs and a compelling cinematic look into a difficult moment in US history, LAWLESS It's an entertaining movie with all the kick and great taste of good old Virginia style moonshine.