Cannes: "Lawless" Dull and Flat But Drinkable


Lawless is a dry and straight-forward yet slightly flawed gangster tale about three brothers in Franklin County, Virginia, who make a living bootlegging their way through the 1930’s Prohibition era while fighting against the biggest gangster and corrupt cop crime waves in American history.

The film which is based on a true story, stars Shia LaBeouf as the youngest of the three infamous Bondurant brothers, Jack, with Tom Hardy as the oldest and most feared and revered brother, Forrest, and Jason Clarke plays Howard, the middle brother who guards and protects the other two brothers. The brothers have to battle the abusive and obsessively compulsive neat freak, federal Special Agent Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce, who wants a cut of their bootlegging profits. When the brothers refuse to succumb to the profit sharing demands of Agent Rakes, things start to turn bloody and violent.

The movie integrates side stories of lion-hearted and impulsive Jack as he matures from boy to man and romances his way to the heart of the pastor’s daughter played by Mia Wasikowska, and along his courtship, stirs up trouble and near death experiences for his two brothers, and endangers the life of his best friend, Cricket (Dane DeHaan).

The actors’ performances are decent but not thoroughly convincing, and sometimes difficult to discern what they are mumbling, like Tom Hardy who grunts through most of his lines and Guy Pearce who snarls through some of his. Shia Labeouf plays Jack’s character with the same haste and high energy hysteria as all his other movie characters. There is little change in character portrayal between the young Jack and the more mature and courageous Jack.

Understanding the vocals may not be necessary throughout much of the film since the physical violence of guns, knives, kicks, hand punches and knuckle punches speak for themselves. Yet, the violence is not extremely overdone or cover your eyes grotesque, leaving room for a good and well told story.

There are moments were the story seemed a bit out of place or lacking attention to detail. As Jack rushes out of the church, hobbling with one shoe and one bare foot, he encounters Rakes who beats the crap out of him, but Jack seemed to have both shoes on. The scene where Forrest cuts off the balls of his attackers and sends them to Rakes seemed more appropriate to occur after he discovers what happens to Maggie, his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain).

The movie tells a solid story that drags in certain parts, with unnecessary side stories like Shia LaBeouf delivering moonshine to Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman), a high profile gangster, in order to prove his worth to his brothers or the killing spree destructions caused by Floyd Banner in Blackwater. After that, Floyd Banner who could be the Al Capone-like character seemed to have no other value. Nor is it necessary to have Forrest dancing by the frozen lake to test his invincibility; although the humor and ending did save the movie from being completely dull and dry. But, the climatic ending does not deliver the same oomph of most Westerns or Depression era gangster movies, and is a bit weak and easy how Special Agent Charlie Rakes was handled.

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