EIFF 2012: ‘Lawless’ is a disappointingly unremarkable film in nearly all respects
Written by Nick Cave
Directed by John Hillcoat
Director John Hillcoat and musician Nick Cave have collaborated numerous times since the late 1980s, from Cave having starred in Ghosts… of the Civil Dead to composing Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Lawless marks their second collaboration involving Cave as screenwriter, following The Proposition. That outback-set western was a film of strong lyricism and a blistering atmosphere. Like The Proposition, Lawless concerns three brothers with ties to crime and extreme violence. Unlike the 2005 film, Hillcoat’s latest is an unusually flat affair and lacking in any of the director’s usually reliable boldness regarding harsh, brutal content.
Adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World, Lawless concerns the Bondurant brothers in the Prohibition era, who set up a racket running moonshine out of the Virginia mountains. While their fellow bootleggers pay the necessary bribes to keep federal enforcement away, the brothers do no such thing, meaning they have no protection when a Chicago special agent, with a fondness for violent tactics outside of the law, arrives to eradicate the various brewing and selling operations. Guy Pearce, another Hillcoat veteran and star of The Proposition, is the agent, while Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke play the Bondurant brothers. LaBeouf is the runt of the pack out to prove himself, Clarke the enforcer of the trio, and Hardy the seemingly indestructible leader prone to having myths spun about him. In addition to these four, there’s Jessica Chastain as a beautiful barmaid with a mysterious past, and Mia Wasikowska as a seemingly pure preacher’s daughter that LaBeouf’s Jack falls for.
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