The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Lawless | Tom Hardy, Shia LeBeouf, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman | Review

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4_Chicks_Small Judy Thorburn

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Australian director John Hillcoat collaborated with rocker/screenwriter Nic Cave for 2005's The Proposition and they have reteamed for Lawless with Cave's script loosely based on Matt Bondurant's 2008 novel, “The Wettest County in the World” about his grandfather Jack's real life exploits as a Virginia bootlegger.

Set in the rural hills of Franklin County, Virginia during the Prohibition era, Hillcoat's well crafted, gritty and violent  crime drama boasts a fantastic, all star cast.

Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises) Shia LeBeouf (Transformer franchise) and Jason Clarke (Wall Street: Money  Never Sleeps) star as the three Bondurant brothers who are in the business of making and selling moonshine.  Hardy, a magnificent, chameleon-like actor, has the amazing knack of disappearing into any role and once again he does just that with his spot on portrayal of the deep thinking, man of few words and occasional grunts, Forrest Bondurant, the brains behind the operation and leader of the pack, armed with brass knuckles to do most of his talking.

Clarke portrays his brother Howard, the hot tempered brawny enforcer not to be messed with and LeBeouf delivers his most impressive role ever as Jack, the youngest sibling who is forced to transform from a meek young man to take charge adult when circumstances arise. In this film, LeBeouf gets to show his acting range and is able to hold his own against such a cast of powerful actors.

The solid supporting cast includes Gary Oldman as Chicago gangster Floyd Banner. Unfortunately, his is more akin to an extended cameo, but he makes the best of his few, but memorable scenes. Brilliant actress Jessica Chastain is on board as Maggie Beauford, a beauty from Chicago with a troubled past seeking a quieter life on the southern plains.  Yet she has no idea what she is getting herself into after Forrest hires her as a barmaid in his restaurant and subsequently becomes his love interest.

And, in a side subplot, Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) well cast as Bertha, portrays the preacher's daughter who catches the adoring eyes of Jack determined to court and impress her.

Although each of the performances are excellent, it is an electrifying Guy Pearce that chews up his scenes as the heartless, bad to the bone, corrupt government agent, Special Deputy Charley Rakes from Chicago who arrives on the scene. Declaring a war on moonshiners, his aim is to take down his number one target, the fearless Bondurant brothers, who have built a reputation for being indestructible.  Forget the law, the sadistic Rakes is driven by his own set of rules and he is willing to do anything to get the job done.

It doesn't matter what side of the law these characters are supposed to be on.  The disregard for the law, aka lawlessness, comes into play in this cutthroat (and I mean that literally) world of gangsters, lawmen and bootleggers.  Make no bones about it, this is a brutal gangster movie that blends a coming of age tale with revenge along with graphic displays of gut wrenching, blood drenched violence.

That said, kudos goes to the photography and the production design in which strong attention to detail in the authentic sets, costumes, cars and scenery set the tone for the look and feel of the period.

All things considered, for those whose who are sensitive, the unsettling moments, and there are several, may be a bit too much to bear. But for the rest of us, this well done, fact based saga is definitely worth seeing.

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