LawlessFeature Film |
The gangster story goes Western.
As follow-up to the dystopian drama The Road, Aussie auteur John Hillcoat delves deep into Prohibition-era Virginia with the mostly true story of the bootlegging Bondurant brothers in Lawless. Penned by The Proposition screenwriter Nick Cave, the film blends gangster movie narrative conventions with the thrumming raw music and strong-but-silent tone of masculinity seen in Westerns to forge a drama as devastating as it is intoxicating and romantic. The story is focused on three brothers forced to stand up when a new lawman demands a steep cut of their business. Guns fire like cannons, and likewise all the feature's violence is impactful and frightening, never garish or glamorous. But of the film's many virtues, the best is its cast.
Tom Hardy radiates danger as gang leader Forrest Bondurant, who speaks in a low growl and is the toughest man to ever sport a cardigan. Jessica Chastain shines as his strong-willed love interest, while Guy Pearce -- with a strikingly severe haircut and the menacing air of a Nazi officer -- delivers a performance that sometimes seems over the top, yet plays brilliantly against Hardy's understated but powerful portrayal, offering dueling portraits of masculinity. As the film's central figure, Shia LaBeouf plays the youngest Bondurant who desperately aspires to be as fearless and feared as his brothers. LaBeouf's plucky persona plays well in the film's first half where Jack struggles to win his brothers' respect. But surrounded by such skilled performers -- including Gary Oldman as the smirking city gangster Floyd Banner -- his portrayal ultimately comes up a little shallow by comparison. Nonetheless, Lawless is a hard-hitting yarn about sibling rivalry and power that seems destined to become a modern classic.
|Lawless red-band trailer|