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This week, Papa Kenn reviews LAWLESS!
Director: John Hillcoat
Writers: Nick Cave, Matt Bondurant (novel)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Dane DeHaan, Mia Wasikowska
Lawless is an interesting movie to talk about, because I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. It has a strong cast, a decent script, and is technically well done…but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I think I should have (though that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like it). Part of this could extend from the fact that it’s based on a true story, or rather the historical novel “The Wettest County in the World”, which is based on family stories and historic archives of the Bondurant brothers.
As I said before, the cast is a strong one, consisting of Shia LaBeouf as Jack Bondurant, Jason Clarke as Howard Bondurant, Jessica Chastain as Maggie Beauford, Dane DeHaan as Cricket, Guy Pearce as Charlie Rakes, Gary Oldman as Floyd Banner, and Tom Hardy as Bane- I mean Forrest Bondurant. While Shia is at home playing his usual quirky, charming, and occasionally confident self, Hardy as Forrest seems more like a combination of Bane’s physical prowess and Forrest Gump. Speaking of Hardy…if you thought Bane was hard to understand, then you’re in for a treat with Forrest. He’s a man of few words for sure, but several of those words could have used captions.
Oh, and if Dane DeHaan looks familiar, that’s probably because he played Andrew in Chronicle, a personal favorite and my first review until YouTube decided to copyright ban it. Truth be told, there were several moments where I secretly hoped that Cricket would go Akira on everyone. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t…
The story, while technically solid (I can’t vouch for the accuracy to its source material), is very hit and miss for me. We experience a well told tale, but the pacing is extremely slow in the middle and cliches feel commonplace for a good portion of the film. After the first few scenes that introduce us to the brothers, we hit a very stop and go pace that is annoying but never approaches being a deal breaker. The interesting scenes can be gripping and extremely violent at times, though rarely reach exciting levels until the third act. The slow portions on the other hand just feel like filler, bland and unsatisfying.
As for cliches, the most blatant of these has to be Charlie Rakes, the new Special Deputy and- OH MY GOD could he look anymore like a stereotyped villain? Slicked back black hair, raspy hoity-toity voice, constantly wearing dark suits, and no discernable redeeming traits or relatability. He’s there for us to hate, and he does that job well, but I would have appreciated more than a simple straw man as a villain.
Possibly the biggest issue this movie had for me was that it failed to hold my interest for a good portion of the movie, again mostly due to its pacing. There’s a legend about the brothers that keeps getting brought up, and too often the film feels like it’s more caught up in its own legends than actually progressing the story. Once we reach the third act leading to the climax though, the film manages to redeem itself (mostly).
At one point, Jack’s narration alludes to big city crime in places like Chicago during the Prohibition Era, and big time mobster names like Al Capone. Movies have been made about these very people and the crime waves in their cities with far more interesting results. Lawless is flawed for sure, but if you can stick it out through the low points (more difficult than you’d think at times) then you’ll be treated to a great third act that makes this a movie worth seeing. Not a “must see”, but likely to satisfy most audiences and at the very least worth seeing once it’s out on DVD and Blu-ray.
I give Lawless: 6/10.
I’m Papa Kenn, and I’ll see you next review.
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