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Lawless - Review

Lawless

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

JOHN Hillcoat’s partnership with Nick Cave continues to yield rich benefits with Lawless, a cracking Prohibition-era gangster thriller that boasts a top-drawer cast on tip-top form.

Based on the true story of the notorious Bondurant brothers, the film chronicles how they fought the law and won to maintain their boot-legging operation in the heart of America’s Appalachian foothills.

The brothers in question are Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke), whose livelihood is threatened by the arrival of a ruthless new lawman (Guy Pearce’s Chicago special agent Charlie Rakes) who is not averse to employing sinister tactics.

And it comes at the same time as the youthful Jack is attempting to step up and emulate his older brothers, while embarking on a relationship with a pretty young church-goer (Mia Wasikowska).

While rooted in fact, Hillcoat’s film also shares a lot of traits with similarly minded gangster films from The Untouchables through to The Godfather, with elements of the Corleones, in particular, visible in the hot-headed tendencies of Clarke’s Howard and the more business-like approach of Jack (struggling to emerge from his family’s shadow).

But Lawless also has an identity of its own and one that’s very much in keeping with the Hillcoat template. Just as he showed with his Outback Western The Proposition, the director is not averse to using hard-hitting violence and there are several sequences here that are guaranteed to make you wince.

The look and feel of the film is also authentic, too, with Cave helping to deliver a cool soundtrack that also embellishes proceedings.

In terms of performance, viewers are also faced with an embarrassment of riches. LaBeouf is back to the type of form he first displayed in A Guide To Recognising Your Saints (pre-Transformers), Hardy is typically immense as the gruff Forrest (playing it, by his own admission, as an old lesbian), and Clarke is eye-catching (if under-employed) as Howard.

Pearce, meanwhile, exudes menace and unease as the repellent asexual lawman, Dane DeHaan excels as the out-of-his depth family friend Cricket, Jessica Chastain is typically reliable as the damaged Maggie (and love interest of Forrest) and Wasikowska displays charm and innocence as Bertha.

There’s even a couple of scene-stealing appearances from Gary Oldman to enliven proceedings still further.

Put together, this is a proper gangster film that excites on just about every level. It’s bordering on a masterpiece.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: September 7, 2012