John Hillcoat knows how to bring dark movies about families trying to survive when their means of survival finds itself altered such as he did in The Road, and now in Lawless. With strong leads to carry this film it saves the film from getting lost in many other films that cover this same topic, and with the fact it is rooted in some true stories that makes it all the more interesting to watch. The popularity of shows like Moonshiners, probably didn’t hurt either except seeing what the people of the 1930s had to do just to have a drink makes them look quite silly now.
The movie takes place in Franklin County, Virginia. Three brothers, Jack, Forrest, and Howard sell moonshine in the area, but when prohibition laws are beginning to be cracked down on they find their business threatened by the forces moving in on them. One of these guys is Charlie Rakes who basically takes over the law in that country, and begins successfully snuffing out locals who have moonshine. The brothers are not going to go down without a fight though when they believe they are being singled out wrongly. Jack seems the most determined to keep their routes alive by even reaching out to a notorious gangster, Floyd Banner.
What makes this movie worth talking about is the performances in it. Without that not much would be noticeable about it unless you want to bring to light the amount of violence, which makes it brutal to watch at times. The characters are the ones you want to see on screen because you care about what happens to him, and anytime someone seems in peril it gets emotional.
Again Tom Hardy proves he has acting abilities this year as Forrest. If anything he’ll probably turn out being everyone’s favorite character from the movie. Hardy also has a way with accents that haven’t been heard before. He can almost shape it into anything it seems. There is also Shia LaBeouf who will be the main actor you see in the film as Jack. He is unlikable at times because of the danger he puts his family in, but not wanting to be a coward also is admired too. Either the guy will convince you he is suiting in the role, or you will continue to dislike him as an actor with this one.
Two others stand out in the movie too including Jessica Chastain. Though she is a quiet presence on screen there is something likable about her, and her love for Forrest. She conveys it well. 2012 seems to be turning to be a huge year for her too. There is also Guy Pearce who is probably an underrated actor. He’s played so many different roles, and he has a knack for making most of them unlikable. If this is his intention or not is unknown, but he does a good job at it. Charlie was a highly unlikable bad guy in the movie, and the accent he used added flare to it. Then there is Gary Oldman, but his face seemed to just be used to get the movie attention if the other actors couldn’t because he rarely appeared in the film. Actually, his whole part almost just seemed like a waste.
There are some very intense scenes that help the movie. While some won’t like how it puts you on edge it is in a strong line of movies that have utilized that well this year. Maybe the amount of deaths in the movie was a bit much though. There is only so much loss that a viewer can take before it becomes way too depressing. The ending of the movie could have been tweaked to help this. Though it might have been true, and somewhat comical it still added a touch of sadness on already a lot of sadness.
While watching you will notice there is something about the film that just seems like it could have been driven deeper. Maybe it was the amount of emotional scenes between the characters, or something else, but there is a tad of something missing to really make this one a best of 2012 that will have people remember it. Overall, it proves to be a solid film though, and nice way for Hillcoat to continue his career that he can make compelling films.
Rating 4 of 5.