During prohibition, The Bondurant Brothers run a successful bootleg operation. The moonshine business is booming, and The Bondurant Brothers use their bar/restaurant as a front. Forrest (Tom Hardy) is the brains of the operation and Howard (Jason Clarke) is the muscle. But the youngest brother, Jack (Shia LaBeouf) wants a more hands-on role in the business. He wants to prove himself as a man, so with the help of his friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan), Jack decides to sell a batch of moonshine. But Jack and Cricket run into some real trouble, when they cross paths with Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman).
At the same time, The Bondurant Brothers receive some intense pressure from a ruthless Special Detective named Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce). Maggie (Jessica Chastain) is a newly hired waitress, but she becomes a liability. Forrest refuses to back down, but the decision to defy Charley Rakes will have serious repercussions.
Lawless features a handful of fantastic performances, but Tom Hardy is the true star of this cast. Forrest is a hard-ass, and Hardy provides the presence of a strong and tough leader. Hardy brings a believable intimidation factor to this character, but Forrest is vulnerable at times (mainly during his scenes with Chastain). Hardy takes control of the Forrest character, and his confident performance is just excellent. LaBeouf was able to show some believable anger and raw emotions, but I still give the edge to Hardy.
John Hillcoat’s directing is marvelous. His style is intense, but Hillcoat also captures the beauty of an old-fashioned countryside. This style is somewhat reminiscent of Hillcoat’s work for The Proposition (probably his best film as a director), without the Western setting of course.
I want to give Lawless a higher score, but I can’t. Hillcoat’s directing is just wonderful, and all of the performances are spot on, but Lawless feels so ordinary most of the time. The story is VERY predictable, and this entire film just goes through the motions. Plus, the final showdown between The Bondurant Brothers and Charley Rakes is too far-fetched and over the top.
Lawless is a bloody and violent crime drama. It’s a brutal film, and Lawless is emotional at times, but in the grand scheme of things, Lawless isn’t good enough to stand out amongst other crime dramas. It’s disappointing, because Hillcoat is the right director and the cast is just perfect. It could’ve been something special, but Lawless isn’t epic or memorable, unfortunately.
Final Rating: 6/10