Lawless is beautifully shot but the poorly executed plot meanders throughout the course of the film and the supposed epic outlaw myth doesn’t come together, nor make an impact.
Lawless is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: 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. — (C) Weinstein
The film’s cinematography and product design is superb. The bloody violence combined with period detail set the look and feel of a true to life gangster tale.
It’s supported by strong performances from the cast – Tom Hardy as Forrest the taciturn eldest, Jason Clarke as Howard the violent right hand, Shia Lebouf as Jack the runt of the litter and Guy Pearce as Rakes the sadistic villain. The female characters – Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain – were able to make an impact despite their small roles. The rest were good at what they were given.
Unfortunately the supposed epic outlaw tale never takes off. Lawless has an interesting premise but it’s squandered by a narrative that’s too preoccupied with its subplots. The film’s point of view is filtered through Jack, and we get more of his coming of age story than the main narrative. On top of this, Jack’s story is a run-of-the-mill underdog tale of the weak link in the pack.
The film does get around to pay attention to its epic tale, but does so in short bursts and sets off again to something else. As a result, most of what you get are fillers that doesn’t get the story moving forward nor add any substance to it. When something does finally happen it’s too late to care and you don’t have anybody to root for.
In the end, the film strains to reach the greatness it has set out for itself but fails. It has all the makings of a classic complete with an epilogue and prologue. Sadly the story fails to pull itself together. What you get is an empty disappointing outlaw adventure.
My Rating: 6/10
Alternative Movie Poster by Daniel Norris