Directed by John Hillcoat
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pierce, Gary Oldman
Gangsters and bootleggers are all the rage in Hollywood right now. But even a cool subject matter can’t make some people better actors.
Lawless is the story of the Bondurant family and their moonshining operation. Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Forrest (Tom Hardy) live in Franklin County, Virginia and business is good. But once special deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce) comes to town and tries to horn in on the Bondurant’s business things quickly go to hell. All of this culminates in a bloody shootout on a bridge that is a matter of the historical record.
Where to begin with this one? First off, Tom Hardy and Guy Pierce are magnificent in this movie, as is Gary Oldman (who is grossly under used). The problem comes in with Shai LaBeouf. Maybe it is being from the south that I have a tendency to judge other people’s interpretations for our speech patterns more harshly. Or it could be that LaBeouf is just not a very good actor and his hackneyed southern accent is cringe worthy. If he had a lesser role in this movie it might not be so bad but his character of Jack is the focus of this film and the longer he is on screen the more holes appear in his performance; which brings me to the next problem.
This movie is based on the novel The Wettest County in the World which is written from historical fact but for this movie the story follows the wrong brother. Forrest is the most compelling and interesting character on screen at any given time and Tom Hardy delivers yet another memorable performance. As does Jason Clarke in the role of Howard and he gets the least amount of screen time. If this movie had been written from either of these character’s perspective there might not have been as many wasted scenes or pacing issues. And Lawless has a lot of both. Anything that is lighthearted or slightly whimsical just falls flat. A good editor was needed as this movie is one hundred and sixteen minutes long but I swear I sat here for three hours waiting for it to end.
Also seemly wedged in are a couple of love stories. The outlaw with the heart of gold is a highly over used movie trope and one I would personally like to see die in a hail of gunfire. The best parts of this movie have nothing to do with showing a sensitive side to Forrest. When he is all business everything clicks. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska. At times I felt sorry for both ladies because they were doing the best they could with absolutely nothing given to them. Chastain is especially misused as she deserved more than to just be shoved into the background as “love interest number one.” And as if Shia LaBeouf wasn’t outshined enough, the scenes with him and Mia Wasikowska highlight just how bad he is when paired with a real actor. He really should stick to Michael Bay movies.
Presented in Widescreen 2.35:1
The video is pretty good for the most part but there are several scenes that are exceptionally dark and it is hard to see what is happening.
Blu-Ray: 5.1 DTSHD-MA
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1
I have to say that I was disappointed with the audio. There are several scenes where the audio mix is really low and it is hard to understand what is being said. I expect more from a blu-ray presentation.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This is a blu-ray+dvd+digital copy combo pack in a standard clamshell case. But the special features are plentiful if not unwarranted at times. Of course there is an audio commentary and deleted scenes as is usual with the vast majority of releases these days as well as behind the scenes featurettes. The True Story of the Wettest County in the World, Franklin County, VA: Then and Now and The Story of the Bondurant Family could have easily been combined into one feature and the Willie Nelson music video for “Midnight Run” could have been left off completely. For having so much these special features deliver very little.
I was hoping for more from this movie but despite great actors giving great performances the bad pacing and miscast lead drag Lawless down into a bottomless quagmire of mediocrity.
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10
The Movie 5/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 5/10