Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Director John Hillcoat must have pulled some serious strings to reel in what appears to be a phenomenal cast representing what we hoped would be a fantastic film.
Set in Virginia, County Franklin is home to the richest and poorest minorities. While parts of New Orleans is struggling within an era of the great depression, the Bondurant family run a bootlegging operation; a profitable alcohol business which proves to be the backbone to the family's financial survival and an income of reputation from the locals. Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) is the eldest of three brothers who not only keeps the operation running, but the discipline of his screwball brother Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf).
While Forrest is the "silent but deadly" type and Howard a demented alcoholic, Jack is singled out as one with an emotionally detached personality and a liability to their operation. But it is when the town is greeted with a new face that the folks associated with the Bondurant family are put under scrutiny to spill the beans on the operation. Introducing Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), the devil of Virginia, who sees an opportunity in the Bondurant's alcohol business revealing a corruptness to his dark personality.
With one eye on Charlie's demands, Forrest is caught up with new barmaid Maggie (Jessica Chastain) who is set on proving her loyalty to Forrest, and something more. As Deputy Charlie is hell bound on destroying the towns alcohol advantage, apprentice Jack is trying to balance an ambition of two sides; to prove his own worth for out of town gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman), and to convince his love to upper class lady, Bertha (Mia Wasikowska).
So as things quickly escalate, it is when Charlie and his cohorts of the law begin to use physicality in order to send a message to Forrest and co who remain stubborn under the pressure of the task force, leading to unnecessary violence and a clash of emotions. Jack, who metamorphose into a cocky somewhat brave new character following his association with Frankie, the result of his mind frame can either help rid Charlie's devious activities, or jeopardise everything the family have worked for.
Based on factual events, the screenplay is well represented while the director had a variety of actors to nit-pick and blend with the right scene and their credentials. Unfortunately, besides from the quality within the cast, the only actor who stood out in this was Guy Pearce, who gave a haunting performance and took the portrayal of sadistic drama to another level. What is introduced and eventually closed as a fairy tale book, the seriousness of Pearce's on screen ambiance makes this flick seem more serious than I think the director had intended. Besides from a complete focus of darkness, Tom Hardy has still yet to disappoint as his grunting be-wildered character is fun to watch and yet again scripted to add that touch of comedy to the story, something he does quite well.
Lawless shys from straight up gun-slinging at times offering a refreshing element when it dies down. It reveals the balance of two potential relationships; with Forrest appearing sceptical of Barmaid Maggie and Jack dangling from the legs of a girl that would be classed out of his league.
Shia Lebeouf is quite convincing as the rookie within the troubled family and although I am a fan of some of his work (Transformers only, not 2, defo not 3), he offers nothing other than a mediocre performance that could have been the result of having very little to represent. His character was left unexplored. However the biggest let down of Lawless was the cameo appearance from Gary Oldman. Whether that was down to actors choice I don't know, but you embrace his onscreen presence at the littlest chance the film offers.
Lawless gets a pass for portraying an emotional story that will always be memorable in terms of it being factual based, even if you do wonder how factual the telling actually is. The fact it is based on some sort of event does convince us to sit and watch it, but for other reasons such as a fictional element, the plot would still appear weak. Like many movies of this genre, the premise will try to win you over by re-tracing its steps with violent scenes. The violence does come every so often and when it does it hits hard, avoiding Quentin Tarantino's slapstick red sauce and more realistic gore, all at the hands of Pearce's character.
I expected much more in terms of a better plot and smarter dialogue. It appeared every time a dull moment was upon us, the film felt the need to dive in with over the top violence. Guy Pearce is the vigilante and is suspect to the result of the scenes you will most likely remember; the violent ones. He sticks out for that reason because his dialogue and on screen portrayal alone will be the only motive behind anyone classing this movie one of the best of 2012. But is that fair? on the bases of one actors performance? maybe not, but the proof is on the screen.
Overall; Entertaining to say the least with a back-forward love story, but without Guy Pearce, the plot and over all characters would have no impact when it comes to the award cabinet...Factual or not!