Thursday, 6 September 2012


2012, 18, Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain


The negative traits in re-teaming for a big-screen project after receiving such critical acclaim for your previous effort is that all eyes flicker upon your latest attempt filled with a bucket load of expectation. The 'team' in question here consists of Aussie director John Hillcoat and musician/screenwriter Nick Cave (minus his Bad Seeds) whose 2005 Aussie-set western The Proposition turned heads with inspired moments correlated with show-stopping performances. This highly-anticipated next offering pitches the factual story of the Bondurant brothers, bootleggers who refuse to co-operate with a new lawman in town in Depression-era rural Virginia, and is adapted from novel The Wettest Country in the World - written by Matt Bondurant, grandson to these characters.

The cast, an impressive blend of talents, purport this to be something special, what with man-of-the-moment Tom Hardy shoulder-to-shoulder with character actors Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain. Hardy plays eldest Bondurant Forrest, growling his way through the running time in a captivating manner. Here is an actor fast showing he is one for the ages, one who embodies every being he portrays, one who could be in danger of embodying one character too many. Youngest Bondurant Jack is played with an endearingly witty innocence by Shia LaBeouf who, one hopes, will relish this opportunity to shed his Transformers feathers. Investment in Cave's script relies heavily upon the viewpoint of his character, with LaBeouf bravely proving he can stand up to the occasion alongside Hardy, an underused Oldman (back to his unpredictable self post-Tinker Tailor Oscar nomination) and Pearce - who, as Chicago special agent Rakes, provides the film with a forceful figure of hate.

Hillcoat's skillful mastery of the camera has splashes of genius (one or two scenes are captured with pure beauty that will no doubt bone day e analysed in lecture rooms,) but it's as if the filmmaker lacks conviction in his abilities, instead opting to depict the worn-down cliches Cave's screenplay withholds in predictable manners (an almost-romantic sub-plot involving Frank and Jessica Chastain's Maggie being the main culprit here.) Amidst the alarming action and (at times) gape-inducing brutal violence that shockingly convinces, a sour taste is left in the mouth: once the final shot has left the screen, you will realise that tase is disappointment.

If only Hillcoat had taken the law into his own hands and veered from the rulebook a little more, Lawless could well have been flawless. As it stands, a strangely-classy enjoyable watch that won't demand another.