Lawless is a drama based on the Prohibition era. It is directed by Australian director John Hillcoat and written by Nick Cave. It is loosely based on Matt Bondurant’s semi-true historical novel The Wettest County in the World, which is about his great-uncle’s exploits during the hooch wars in Virginia.
It could have been a good movie but something is wrong with it. One of the reasons to watch Lawless is Tom Hardy, who plays Forrest Bondurant, the head of the moonshine operation. Jason Clarke is Howard the strong-arm of the family.
But the main focus of Lawless is Jack, the youngest Bondurant. He is played by Shia LaBeouf and it is clear that he has a hard time competing against the more seasoned characters. Forrest pays off the local sheriff (Bill Camp) and tries to keep his competitors at bay as the Bondurants make moonshine. One of the competitors is played by Gary Oldman.
The Bondurants are good family men who are just looking after each other. They are willing to do whatever it takes during the Great Depression in order to survive. Everything is going well with their moonshine operation until a Chicago special agent arrives. The agent is played by Guy Pearce.
Lawless has tons of gore and extreme acts of carnage. During its premiere at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, screenwriter Cave described the story as a simple mix of brute violence and sentimentality. But critics say that it has no moral dilemmas at all.
The movie is shot in Georgia with actors coming from the United States, England and Australia. Lawless lacks the visual elements needed to bring the characters to life. The romance between LeBeouf and Mia Wasikowska feels tedious. The fights between the Bondurants and their enemies lack cinematic urgency.
LaBeouf might top the billing of Lawless but Hardy is definitely the star of the movie. He latter is charismatic enough to make you stick with the movie until the end.