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'Lawless' review - Cannes Film Festival 2012

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Director: John Hillcoat; Screenwriter: Nick Cave; Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska


Brooding with brutality and machismo, The Proposition duo director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave's rural gangster movie winds back to Prohibition-era America for an entertaining tall-tale of three brothers and a lot of violence.

It's '30s Virginia and the badass Bondurant brothers (Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Shia LaBeouf) have made their names running illegal moonshine from 'the wettest county in the world'. But when they're hauled into a war by the arrival of vicious federal agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), blood boils and spills over messily.

Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Lawless
Broken faces, slashed throats, oozing bullet-holes and much, much worse is to come, as Hillcoat's knack for alpha-male violence kicks in. But, helped by the nice moments of wry humour in Cave's screenplay, the real pull is the cast.

Hardy uncorks his hulky charisma to play Forrest Bondurant, an apparently unkillable man who wears cardigans and brass-knuckles with equal panache. And Shia LaBeouf stretches well as the runt of the litter who's destined to man up.

Guy Pearce's slicked-haired sicko Fed, though, is a tremendously over-the-top dandy: sadistic, effete and alarmingly bereft of eyebrows. Missing the chance for a villain on the scale of Gary Oldman's pill-popping cop in Leon, Hillcoat's movie doesn't make nearly enough of him. In fact, you can't shake the feeling that Hillcoat just should have gone for broke with his florid, bloody drama.

Based on Matt Bondurant's supposedly based-on-fact novel The Wettest County in the World, Lawless ultimately doesn't really have much to say for itself. Gary Oldman is a virtual cameo as mobster Floyd Banner, while Jessica Chastian and Mia Wasikowska provide love interests for Hardy and LaBeouf that feel like filler for a story that rattles forward on well-worn genre rails despite its mythic aspirations.


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