A solid yet altogether not very impressive film considering a great cast.
John Hillcoat will be most famously known for director the screen adaptation of the bleak and depressing The Road. I thought this was a decent enough film and having not read the book I was informed it was largely truthful. In my opinion his best work to date was The Proposition featuring a great cast including Ray Winstone, Emily Watson and in the leading role Guy Pearce. Hillcoat also enjoys collaborating with multi-talented artist Nick Cave who has written the screenplay for the previously mentioned film and Lawless.
Lawless is set in the depression era of Virginia where a gang of brothers work trading off liquor. When special agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) comes to visit the gang he wants a cut of all profits from the trading, however the powerful leader Forrest (Tom Hardy) refuses. Jack (Shia LaBeouf) most face the mob boss of Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) and tension rises between the three parties.
Upon the first promotions and news releases of Lawless it was the talented cast that got my attention. Firstly we have ‘man of the moment’ Tom Hardy and following a new surge in stardom through his roles in the two major Nolan films Inception and The Dark Knight Rises he now carries an expectation with every role. In Lawless he plays the big presence of Forrest as the eldest brother he is in command and his authority is made clear in Hardy’s actions. In fact the idea of strength and power seems to be where Hardy’s acting is at its best, as his work as the criminal mad man in Bronson showed. As he is showing himself as such a force in the acting world it was no surprise that his character was the most noticeable and enjoyable. Now we head to Shia LaBeouf whose silly name is almost equal to his rather poor acting career to date. Like many my first feature film encounter with him was in Holes and in all fairness this wasn’t a terrible performance in fact when we get to the next few films its one of his best. For instance when he took the lead role in the awful Disturbia (the only thing disturbing was how poor it was) it started my distaste for his acting mainly through his failure to properly convey the correct emotions. Thankfully this time it was a relieving change to see him actually perform adequately enough that I could get along with his character and even root for him (beforehand I would also hope someone would kill his character) I just hope he continues improving and drops those Michael Bay films (he wont/hasn’t)
Now you would think having such a great cast it could only add to the quality of the film however this not quite the case here. Firstly we have the almost ‘cameo’ appearance from Gary Oldman who of course plays the character absolutely fine just as we expect. The problem lies in that due to a tiny screen time (I reckon it must be around 5 minutes) we never really get enough of who he is. Sure we learn of his power but considering its Gary Oldman why not give this more time? Best and most obvious bet is money but if this is the case then why not simply look elsewhere. Fortunately this doesn’t impact the film too badly and was more of a chance for me to be picky. Then we move to Guy Pearce playing the special agent who tries to stop the gang of brothers and he was perfectly fine if not that impressive (this might be down to the character rather than the acting) The last mentions goes firstly to Jessica Chastain who plays the dancer turned love interest for Forrest. We find, just like Guy Pearce, that its a believable performance without too much going on for the character. Then finally we have Mia Wasikowska who plays Jacks love influence throughout the film and similarly to Jessica Chastain her character is underdeveloped. Though I will say from previous films she is showing some good acting and I believe the best is yet to come.
One of the strange problems for me came from some oddly placed cheesy action sequences. Mainly involving a baddies sudden horror jump like appearance and although this wasn’t full on as we expect in horror it still felt out of place. Another problem comes from the story losing its way a little in places, made more so by the sub characters. Nontheless this an enjoyable film with a great cast that largely holds upto their reputations (and in my opionion LaBeouf outdoing his) worth a watch but nothing too amazing.