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Lawless

December 6, 2012

Lawless movie poster

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Bloody and uneven. Characters are underdeveloped and others grunt. Lawless is a beautifully shot film that holds nothing back and leaves you wanting more. It is a rare combination of decent and fantastic. Based on the book by Matt Bondurant called “The Wettest County in the World.” The film follows three brothers during the prohibition years as they bootleg alcohol and beat up people with brass knuckles.

Lawless brothers

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It doesn’t match the intensity of John Hillcoat’s Proposition or bleakness of The Road but it is great to look at and gives you enough to appreciate the insanity unfolding before your eyes.

The movie never mixes into a cohesive whole but it has moments that make it worthwhile. Tom Hardy steals the show as a man who is incredibly violent yet painfully shy. He knows he can kill at a moment’s notice and doesn’t need to act like a tough guy. His cardigans and mellow demeanor mask a man who knows what his life will lead to. He explains this in a fantastic scene to Shia.

It is not the violence that sets men apart. It is the distance they are prepared to go. We are survivors We control the fear. Without it we are dead.

Lawless Tom Hardy Cardigan

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The problem is that Guy Pearce comes into town and he is not afraid of the “hillbillies.”  Instead he and his shaved eyebrows wage war on the invincible Bondurant brothers. What follows is ultra violence and more ultra violence.

This may sound strange but I love how quick and brutal the violence is in Hillcoat’s films. It is real, spontaneous and bloody. One punch can knock you out and a bullet does real damage  It is an unpredictable world that is deadly and harsh. To live you need to be prepared go far and know you might end up with a massive stream of blood shooting out your neck after a bullet wound.

Grantland writer Zach Baron covered this film in his Summermetrics series and made an interesting observation. He wrote “I’m not saying LaBeouf’s method as an actor is to take a potent cocktail of cocaine and methamphetamines and start screaming at his director to roll film; I’m just saying I can’t think of another explanation for why his performances from movie to movie are identically loud and twitchy and irritating.”

Shia’s manic mode doesn’t gell with the oddities of this film. His ambition seems out of place in a world where ambition will get you killed. After the film you’ve forgotten about Shia and can only think about Tom Hardy’s Cardigans (Hardigans), Guy Pearce’s non-existent eyebrows and a surprise moment with Jessica Chastain.

Lawless Guy Pearce

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Sidenote: Speaking of violence. In this scene he literally finds testicles in a brown bag at his doorstep. 

Lawless has too much going for it for you to ignore. However, if you were expecting a brutal masterpiece like The Proposition watch The Proposition again. Lawless seems to be a film that lets it’s cast get away with too much (Hardy wanting to be motherly, Shia drinking and scaring Mia Wasikowska, Guy Pearce wanting shaved eyebrows) while letting the story get out of hand. As disjointed as it may be it still creates a memorable experience and a new fashion craze.

Lawless Jessica Chastain

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