As we are in the full swing of the madness that is the holiday and the holiday shopping season, it is pretty easy to miss a wide variety of things as the new releases are hitting the shelves at an accelerated pace for consumers to have enough time to get them into stockings or under trees. Out today on DVD & Blu-Ray from our friends at Alliance Films is a films based on incredible true tale of three brothers when the law was corrupt, and the outlaws were heroes. Get ready for “Lawless”.
Starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Gary Oldman
Directed by John Hillcoat
“Lawless” is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers (Hardy, LaBeouf and Jason Clarke); bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant’s family in his novel “The Wettest County in the World”, the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation’s most notorious crime wave.
In this his follow up to “The Road” director John Hillcoat explores the violent and vicious nature that the bootlegging wars brought out in people feeling their liberties oppressed and the crime that came out of it with solid but somewhat uneven results. As it tries to turn the whisky trade of the time into some sort of myth, it doesn’t work as well as he wants it to because even though Hillcoat who is an adept storyteller and does a fine job at making each individual shot look important and beautiful in its own right, the script by Nick Cave and the performances of the actors quite often felt like they were at odds with one another and not really meshing together the way that they were intended to as any attempt at any sort of emotional complexity felt a little forced. It was a bloody world of action with a very unique soundtrack that kept us for the most part engaged but there were some performances in the ensemble that did as much as possible to take us out of the moment entirely.
Tom Hardy as the eldest Bondurant brother Forrest did a fine job as he was equal parts menacing and stoic as he knew the world that he lived in and the necessities of it. Jason Clarke as middle brother Howard was often in the background of the proceedings but as the youngest brother Jack; Shia LaBeouf pulls this movie down with a performance this isn’t really annoying but it is lazy. Interpreting the material as simply playing a brash young man who drank a lot and acted recklessly with the hubris of youth it seems as there wasn’t any thought from him as to why but just that it could be done. Given that he was really the primary focus of the film, it came off as forced and awkward and really didn’t work. Guy Pearce was chewing the scenery as the villainess Charlie Rakes but his performance and character was so uncomfortably cartoonish that it only got truly effective a little too late in the film. The likes of Jessica Chastain, Dane DeHaan, Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman round out the supporting ensemble and did a fine job but while watching this film, this critic couldn’t help but get the feeling that this entire narrative was focusing on the wrong brother as Tom Hardy’s character may have made for a more watchable cinematic protagonist. It admittedly plays a little better on the small screen and any legitimate character flaws in the script are admittedly muffled and a lot less distracting.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray were excellent as expected as the special features on this Blu-Ray include feature length commentary track with director John Hillcoat and author of the book that inspired the screenplay Matt Bondurant, Deleted Scenes, The True Story of the Wettest County in the world, Franklin County, VA: Then & Now, a Willie Nelson music video “Midnight Run” and exclusive to the Blu-Ray; The Story behind the Bondurant family.
When it comes down to it; “Lawless” as a movie is the tale of two different performances. One that is quite good and another that really isn’t; the movie is still worth a look it just depends on what you’ll come away with at the end of it.
3 out of 5 stars.
“Lawless” is now available for rent on DVD & Blu-Ray at video stores all across the country; you can also find it for purchase at all major retailers like amazon.ca or HMV.
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