Gritty Lawless scores a blood-drenched direct hit
 

Seattle Gay News
Mobile Edition
rss: SGN Calendar For Mobile Phones http://sgn.org/rssCalendarMobile.xml



SGN ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT SECTION

SGN Mobile Front Page



MOVIE REVIEWS
CALENDAR
NORTHWEST NEWS CALENDAR
CLASSIFIED

click here to go to the main SGN website

 

posted Friday, September 7, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 36

Gritty Lawless scores a blood-drenched direct hit
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

LAWLESS
Opens August 31


According to legend, Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) cannot be killed. He survived the Spanish flu as a child while everyone else who got it wasn't so lucky. His older brother, Howard (Jason Clarke), is apparently equally indestructible, making it through some of the most horrific battles of World War I virtually unscathed. Only the youngest, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), doesn't appear to live up to the family lore, his intelligence and quick wit doing little to mask his sensitivity and timidity as it relates to violence.

The Bondurants are the leading bootleggers in all of rural Virginia. They don't expand, they don't aim high, they just do what they do better than everyone else, knowing whom to pay off and whom to keep in line. But Jack wants more, and even with a new - and very corrupt - Special Deputy named Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) stalking their every move, he sees the opportunity to expand the brothers' business if Forrest is willing to let him lead the way.

Lawless, based on the book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, scripted by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat - who previously joined forces on the pitch-black Australian Western The Proposition - is a Prohibition gangster saga that doesn't go anywhere new or do a single thing that's unexpected. It's also a damn fine motion picture, acted to perfection and made with consummate skill. On top of that, it's remarkably entertaining start to finish, and although there are little bits that don't work, the whole is so strikingly well done it's mighty difficult to not walk out of the theater hugely impressed.

Granted, the filmmakers and the author would love for you to believe that this is (mostly) a true story - that the meat and potatoes of the Bondurant saga actually took place as depicted. The truth, however, is anything but, as liberties are taken all over the place, and as colorful as the real tale is, it's nothing compared to the wildly over-the-top fictions that take place here.

No matter. This is old-school American mythology, Hatfield-and-McCoy style, and when it's as beautifully told as this, there isn't a darn thing wrong with that. Cave's writing is sharp, punchy, straight to the point, and doesn't hold back. Hillcoat's direction is equally so, the director's keen eye for detail allowing the scenario to play out without pretense or filler. Whether the focus is young love, wounded desire, or bloody revenge, every step of the journey is a perfectly planned aria of suffering, pain, and brotherly trust that rarely, if ever, goes off track.

There are meaty supporting roles for Jessica Chastain as a wounded society dame fresh from Chicago looking to disappear in Forrest's backwoods bar, and for Gary Oldman as a notorious gangster, but they aren't the focus. Hillcoat smartly keeps things centered on the Bondurants, specifically Forrest and Jack, allowing them to be the emotional catalyst that fuels everything from vindictive revenge to blissful young love to everything in-between.

Hardy dominates, of that there is no doubt. Forrest is a man of few words, his series of shrugs, grunts, and raised eyebrows expressing and explaining volumes. For a ferocious beast of a human animal, in all honesty he actually doesn't raise that much hell - just enough potential for it to create tension. But when he does act? When the man does spring into action? Hold onto your seats because he's like Clint Eastwood, Robert Mitchum, Toshiro Mifune, and the Hulk rolled into one freakish adult specimen, and there's no telling what sort of carnage he'll be capable of unleashing.

But the surprise is that, by and large, LaBeouf equals him, delivering the sort of multifaceted performance I've always known he was capable of but wondered if I would ever see. He shares scenes with the magnetic Mia Wasikowska that took my breath away, while sequences with Dane DeHaan foreshadow stunning tragedy with a series of playful laughs and kid-like joviality rather than tears and hardship. The former Disney darling and Transformers series star is the heart of the picture, the human engine around which all else revolves, and if Hardy is the force of nature, then LaBeouf is the everyman giving his costar's destructive forcefulness a reason to exist.

Comparisons to the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing are probably inevitable, but if that movie was high opera, then Lawless is the ragtime band version, moving to its own idiosyncratic beat. Hillcoat once again showcases a skill for down-and-dirty genre filmmaking that's sublime, and while the story he and Cave are telling isn't exactly new or original, that doesn't make it any less compelling. This movie delivers punch after punch, scoring knockouts with every blow. In short, I loved it. It's a late August surprise worthy of being talked about, discussed, and savored for the remainder of 2012.



next story
Autumn 2012 movie preview
------------------------------
Adam Levine exposed
------------------------------
Nelly's back!
------------------------------
Bumbershoot crowd swoons over Tony Bennett
------------------------------
Ribald Bachelorette a wild walk down the aisle
------------------------------
Marital acts - Arouet's Lawfully Wedded seeks to challenge your worldview
------------------------------
All hail King Tut
------------------------------
Sharon Jones brings the funk to Key Arena
------------------------------

------------------------------
Anderson Cooper - Why I Came Out
------------------------------
Lady Gaga announces Tacoma date
------------------------------
Gritty Lawless scores a blood-drenched direct hit
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
------------------------------

------------------------------
Bringing the heat - Hot Chip returns to Seattle after a long absence
------------------------------
Letters
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
 
search SGN
SERVING SEATTLE AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST FOR 36 YEARS!