I was not surprised, but pleasantly entertained. “Lawless,” a period piece, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman. Who can ask for anything better than this? It is an astonishing film, which shocks the viewer because Shia LaBeouf has graduated to the top of the class. He’s officially a star and a leading man in films, if there was ever any doubt. He steals this film, from Guy Pearce and shockingly even from Gary Oldman, who is never anything but perfection in any film.
Toss out your killer expectations. Because this film will devour those and spit them out in gold bullion. The hot cast, including Tom Hardy and Jessica Cahstain and the iconic and legendary screenwriter Nick Cave are just above their level of greatness. Aussie born director John Hillcoat deserves a statue in the middle of Hollywood Blvd. Nothing this good in a gangster film has been made in decades. Nothing!
The film based on Matt Bondurant’s fact-based novel “The Wettest County in the World,” Lawless is similar to HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” as a Prohibition-era crime drama about three brawling, bootlegging brothers in Franklin County, Virginia. Fine, you may think that may be why I love the film. But it’s not. I actually know these characters. Anyone who grew up there would recognize the bawdiness of these rednecks all clamoring to be great, and when they fail to be, they shoot and kill. Yes, the Commonwealth of Virginia has come a long way from the 1920s era. But as a friend to Thomas Jefferson once said almost 300 years ago, “You cannot breed certain things out of hillbillies and rednecks.”
Forrest (amazingly played by Hardy) is the stoic leader of this mountain bunch, his heart broken and rebuilt by a reformed hooker, Maggie (Chastain, sublime). Brother Howard (Jason Clarke) is quick in temper and even quicker by gun. And then Jack (Shia LaBeouf) is the kid who needs seasoning. Jack has a big crush on Bertha (Mia Wasikowska), the preacher’s daughter, but bloodshed makes him woozy. And like typical Virginia, her daddy doesn’t think Jack is good enough for his little girl!
But don’t you worry, Jack toughens himself up pretty quickly when the bad guys arrive. And they include none other than Chicago mobster Floyd Banner (a bang-up Gary Oldman) and Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, who plays it brilliantly but very much a sleaze ball. He is very good, trust me.
As you can expect a lot of violence ensues, with Hillcoat staging the shootouts in grand-style, beating the Westerns of the 1950s, with the help of one of the most magnificently talented cinematographers in Tinseltown, Benoît Delhomme.
“Lawless” is a much anticipated and highly well-produced, directed and acted wild adventure. It makes the cut and will definitely become one of the epic films in your collection of favorites one day.
Highlight Hollywood gives Five Stars to “Lawless.” The film opens on Friday around the nation.
Photographs are Courtesy: Miramax
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