American ProfileSeptember 19, 2012 1,669 views Post a comment
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy & Guy Pearce • Directed by John Hillcoat • R, 116 min.
Like a familiar song goes, the hills of “Lawless” are alive. But the thing that keeps the Prohibition-era community of Appalachian mountain men humming in this movie isn’t music, but moonshine.
Based on “The Wettest County in World,” a 2008 historical novel by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of one of the story’s main characters, “Lawless” is the saga of three backwoods brothers and their booming bootleg whiskey business in the early years of the Great Depression.
The ruthless Bondurant boys are legendary in their region of the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, even rumored to be immortal, impossible to kill. Forrest (Tom Hardy of “The Dark Knight”) and Howard (Jason Clark) run their operation with brutal efficiency, paying off the local lawmen with a case or two of hooch to keep them looking the other way.
And any outsider who makes the mistake of crossing their path learns a hard, painful lesson. “I’m a Bondurant,” growls Forrest. “We don’t lay down for nobody.”
The youngest brother, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), doesn’t have Forrest or Howard’s imposing build, their fearlessness or their taste for confrontation. But he desperately wants to prove himself a capable partner, something more than just the driver of their delivery truck.
Running moonshine is a dangerous business, as we learn in the opening sequence when Forrest comes to Jack’s rescue in a dark downtown alley with a set of brass knuckles. But the danger takes a much darker turn with the arrival of a crusading “special deputy” from Chicago (Guy Pearce) on a mission to shut down the county’s bustling bootlegging trade.
It doesn’t take long to discover the detective, Charlie Rakes, is a preening peacock of a psychopath, and he’s on a fateful collision course with the Bondurants. Soon the backwoods are flowing with blood.
These are violent people living violent lives in a violent tale set in a violent place in a violent time, and this is a violent movie. It’s not for the squeamish. But the violence never seems gratuitous; it’s essential grit to a gritty story. And for all the camera shows (every sickening blow of a prolonged beating Ricks administers to Jack, or the awful beginning of a tar-and-feathering), there are other equally unsettling things that it leaves just out of view, or completely to the imagination.
The ensemble cast is uniformly strong, especially Hardy as Forrest, the Bondurant brother of few words, many grunts, and an almost animalistic drive to survive. The always-dynamic Gary Oldman is underused as a citified gangster looking to make his move into the country-bumpkin whiskey business.
Providing lovely sweet spots in the middle of all the mayhem, Jessica Chastain plays a former Chicago showgirl looking to make a new start in the sticks, and Mia Wasikowska is a preacher’s daughter who catches young Jack’s wandering eye---which eventually leads to a catastrophic showdown.
A rip-roaring saga of a family living outside the law and willing to do whatever necessary to protect their way of life, regardless of the lines they had to cross, “Lawless” certainly lives up to its name.
And, like the kickapoo hillbilly brew slow-cooking in one of the Bondurant stills, it packs a punch that may be thrilling to some, but possibly a bit too strong and unsettling for some stomachs.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
A creepy Halloween party appetizer (October 19, 2016)
Applying for Social Security (October 19, 2016)
Chili Cook-off to benefit Wilson County youth (October 19, 2016)
DRT joins Heritage Music Festival (October 19, 2016)
DRT to meet Oct. 24 in Kerrville (October 19, 2016)
Enjoy Harvest Festival in Marion (October 19, 2016)
Enter Pecan Bake Show (October 19, 2016)
Little Golden Books (October 19, 2016)
Make plans for Halloween fun and fall fests (October 19, 2016)
Meeting the needs of the community: St. Vincent de Paul (October 19, 2016)
R&B legend opens Carver season Oct. 29 (October 19, 2016)
Readers share their spooky tales, part two (October 19, 2016)
Road Runners plan Oct. 22 group run (October 19, 2016)
See country legends Oct. 22 (October 19, 2016)
Try your hand at square dancing (October 19, 2016)
Turn yard waste into gardener’s gold (October 19, 2016)
Baptist church to ring in 100 years (October 12, 2016)
Church plans Junk and Treasure Sale (October 12, 2016)
Comal Country Music Show is Oct. 18 (October 12, 2016)
Davy Crockett (October 12, 2016)
Enjoy fried chicken in Poth Oct. 23 (October 12, 2016)
Enjoy this flashy winter resident (October 12, 2016)
Join in the 2016 Rosary Crusade (October 12, 2016)
National Charity League plans celebration (October 12, 2016)
New program increases student knowledge of E-cigarette dangers (October 12, 2016)
Play bunco in La Vernia Oct. 22 (October 12, 2016)
Pondering a poignant letter from the past (October 12, 2016)
Save the date for Oct. 22 March for Life (October 12, 2016)
Should you redeem old savings bonds? (October 12, 2016)
Show Barn Cook-off approaching (October 12, 2016)
Sutherland Springs Old Town Day (October 12, 2016)
The business of aging grows more complex (October 12, 2016)
Try your luck at China Grove Lions Club Casino Night (October 12, 2016)
Atascosa County Craft Show seeks vendors (October 5, 2016)
Beautify your landscape with cacti (October 5, 2016)
Experience Oktoberfest in San Antonio (October 5, 2016)
Gilded peanuts and golden memories — recalling past Floresville Peanut Festivals (October 5, 2016)
Japan Fest set for Oct. 16 (October 5, 2016)
Meal service delivery options for seniors who don’t cook (October 5, 2016)
Oktoberfest comes to Floresville Oct. 15 (October 5, 2016)
Past Pirate champions will never be forgotten (October 5, 2016)
Readers share their ‘spooky’ tales (October 5, 2016)
Sacred Springs PowWow (October 5, 2016)
Shorter teapot (October 5, 2016)
Sinatra tribute comes to Kerrville (October 5, 2016)
Stockdale librarian updates Blue Bonnet Club members (October 5, 2016)
Sunnyside 4-H Bake Sale (October 5, 2016)
Time for turkey in Cestohowa (October 5, 2016)