Wednesday, August 29, 2012



Lawless Ideally, a law should be enacted to benefit and protect the wellbeing of the people. It is hardly the case in reality. After the abolishment of slavery, but before the legalization of interracial-marriage, alcohol was banned in the United States during the so called Prohibition-era in 1920-1933. Although the ban didn't keep the booze from flowing around, it surely kept the law enforcement busy.

Set in Prohibition-era in Virginia, director John Hillcoat brilliantly tells a gripping and brutal tale about three moonshining brothers' clash with corrupted lawmen in "Lawless" (USA 2012 | 115 min.).

The movie is based on Matt Bondurant's novel "The Wettest County in the World," a fictional account about his grandfather and granduncles' life story which is nothing short from a legend.

The authoritative middle brother Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) is the obvious leader of the gang and the brain of the moonshining operation. He is a man with few words. But when he does speak out in his low hoarse voice, his words carry great amount of weight and the rest of the gang follow.

After their parents died, Forrest serves as a parent figure to his veteran elder brother Howard (Jason Clarke) and his eager-for-validation yet ambitious younger brother Jack (Shia LaBeouf).

The brothers own a convenient store, the legitimate business of the family, attended by a mysterious beautiful lady named Maggie (Jessica Chastain) from Chicago. Not quite publicly, the brothers successfully run a sizable bootlegging operation. They robustly supply high quality liquor to the community as well as the underground establishment in surrounding cities.

That success is in jeopardy when Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) arrives from Chicago to shut down the moonshining business once for all. Despite his appearance—an impeccably parted hairline right in the middle, almost invisible eyebrow, a bow-tie, and a pair of gloves matching his suit#8212;he is utterly corrupted and sadistically crude.

A bloody war is raged on. Virginia's Franklin Country becomes a gun-wielding battle ground that resembles a wild wild West.

Jason Clarke, Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in Lawless

While the performance by a fine ensemble cast is terrific, Tom Hardy stands out. He can effortlessly and vividly express the complex emotion as Forrest with maximum muscularity and sensitivity. His outstanding performance once again proves that he is one of the best actors working today. His extraordinary performance in "Warrior" was unfairly overlooked by the Academy last year. Let's hope he gets recognized soon.

Unfortunately, compared to many colorful male characters in the movie, the female characters are rather pale. That goes to both Maggie (Jessica Chastain) and Bertha (Mia Wasikowska), the love interests of Forrest and Jack, respectively. It seems that the main purpose of their existence is to serve as props for the male protagonists and for the plot. Nevertheless, the romantic subplots in the film strike a temporary escape and welcome balance from the horrific violence. Despite few unconvincing moments and underdeveloped characters, the movie's fascinating story keeps you rapt.

If there were no Prohibition, would the story of Bondurant brothers have existed at all? I doubt it. In that regard, I find myself in absolutely agreement with notorious gangster Al Capone's statement "Prohibition has made nothing but trouble." Same statement can be said toward the current law on cannabis.

Countless lives have been lost and billions of dollars ($15 billion in 2010 in the US) have been wasted in the name of "war on drugs." That war is doomed to be a losing battle, just as shown in this movie.

"Lawless," a Weinstein Company release, opens on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at Bay Area theaters.

Shia was good, Tom was good, but the one who really knocked this out of the park was Guy Pearce. Hopefully, just hopefully, he may get his first Oscar nomination for this but I almost highly doubt it since it’s a little too early to be calling out nominations so soon. Good review Tony.
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