Lawless – 4.5/5 – Movie reviews by RY!

Lawless – 4.5/5 – Period piece films are ones that are very audience specific.  A lot of the times, these kinds of films take place way back in historical context.  I mention this because it makes it harder to relate to the characters in the film, and the characters have to be strongly acted to bring out a deeper story to the overall audience.  One thing to point out with this period piece is it takes place closer to modern times, the 1920s.  This movies main focus is on the moonshiners in the western part of Virginia during that time.  For being a period piece, this film is a very strong character driven movie, and does well in depicting bootlegging in a very strong, near perfect film.

It is the 1920s, and moonshine bootlegging is at an all time high in the south, specifically Franklin Country of Virginia. Here, The Bondurant brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clark) run the county’s bootlegging.  After a while, the government sends down a Special Deputy by the name of Charles Rakes (Guy Pierce).  Not only does he want to uphold the law, but he is after a share of the brothers’ profits. When the eldest brother is wounded, and tension with Rakes escalates, the youngest brother must prove his worth against gangster Floyd Banner’s (Gary Oldman) mob as well as battle this new threat to their way of life by Mr. Rakes.  The main characters are the Bondurant brothers, portrayed by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clark.  They all are wonderful in their roles as Forest (Tom) Howard (Jason) and Jack (Shia).  As the eldest brother, Tom Hardy gives an Oscar worthy performance in his role.  He is very stern and structured to a certain way of life.  He compliments these traits in a very empowering way that is also subtle and heartwarming.  He provides depth in his role as the eldest, as he knows he must provide a strong appearance even if there are faults in his thinking or way of living.  Outside of this strong performance by Tom hardy, Shia LaBeouf (of Transformers fame) has a sort of a ‘coming of out’ party with this role.  You see him as a very timid individual at the beginning, but when things go down, he must step up and be what he was born to be.  His transformation into a hardnosed bootlegger is outstanding, as you see true depth to this youngest brother.  This also shows that Shia has strong versatility in going from a timid soul to a stern individual like his older brother.  The other brother, played by Jason Clark, is the less seen and underused of the three, but when on screen he does a good job and performs his task with no quarrels.  Guy Pierce as the crooked cop is truly vile, and you really want to see this guy end a long, torturing death.  Gary Oldman’s Floyd Banner is rarely show in this movie, but he is very powerful when he makes an appearance.  He is basically playing a very short supporting role, but it is a very strong performance.  The rest of the supporting characters do well in supporting the situation, and add depth to the brothers throughout the movie.

The direction of the film is a thorough scope on the everyday life of bootlegging.  The focus is specifically on the ‘country side’ of bootlegging than the most common seen ‘gangster’ style used in most films.  Moonshine is prevalent during this time period, and you see how it is a very strong economic tool to help, not only the brothers, but the whole county’s population.  The greatness in this focus is how powerful moonshine can swing people’s support, and how the law is seen as a trivial mess to something that isn’t illegal by their morals, but only by words on paper.  When the antagonist comes to play a role in fighting the bootleggers, you see a great compliment to the truth of what is wrong.  You see a layer of how law enforcement fails sometimes, and it shows that common sense is thoroughly better in some situations than just written statements.  Also added to the direction is how strong the tension between law enforcement and country residents amplifies certain situations.  When things go down, the action strikes a emotional chord for the audience, and you feel for certain characters involved.  Some side stories are parallel the main story of bootlegging; doing a swell job in complimenting the directional focus instead of deterring from it.  With the side stories, you do get the typical cliché love interests, but is helpful in providing depth to particular characters.  Even when this happens, the direction does stay strongly on the bootlegging.

The cinematography and score is masterful, and very true to the country feel of the movie.  These two elements moved you masterfully through the movie, showcasing elements of what a 1920s countryside in Virginia would be like.  You feel the grittiness of the action sets as well as the slow dramatic dialogue sequences between the brothers, law enforcement and love interest of Jack and Forest.  You feel as if you’re out in the country bootlegging, and want to pick up a rifle and defend your land and rights of being a bootlegger.

Overall, this is a fantastical and entertaining movie about the era of moonshine bootlegging.  Set during the 1920s, the movie is a raw envelope of the trials and tribulations of the Bondurant brothers.  Tom Hardy does a masterful job in his role, and you see that Shia can actually act with his role in this movie.  The direction is strong, and the cinematography is endearing of what a 1920s Franklin County would be like.  I’d recommend this movie to any fan of period pieces and Tom Hardy.  It is a great drama, and a definite blu ray purchased definitely.

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