Monday, December 17, 2012

Lawless (USA; John Hillcoat, 2012)

     Being a big fan of the 2005 western The Proposition,  I was looking forward to this new collaborative effort from writer Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat detailing the prohibition-era tribulations between the bootlegging Bondurant brothers (Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) and Virginia Commonwealth appointed Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), the latter demanding paybacks in exchange for letting them operate their business in peace. Their refusal to oblige puts them at odds with Rakes and jumpstarts a small war in the Virginian mountains where "stills" (distilleries) are shut down one after the other. Similar to The Proposition, the law is shown here to be lacking the moral fabric that it claims to instill, a fabric that is incidentally embodied by those deemed criminals. However, unlike the former picture, Lawless suffers from an uneven script that has a hard time figuring what exactly it is trying to say. As the characters' exploration is for the most part limited to the surface, the chronology is vague and the pace perhaps too inconsistent. Hillcoat's directing, on the other hand, goes a long way in redeeming whatever shortcoming Cave's screenplay may have. The same goes for the acting. While LaBeouf's character makes incredibly stupid choices, making it hard to sympathize with him even when a mouthful of blood and teeth reduces his speech to mumbles (courtesy of a shotgun barrel to the face), the performances are for the most part very strong and  engaging. Tom Hardy is especially surprising as Forrest Bondurant, the oldest and baddest sibling of the Bondurant clan who is starting to believe the legends told about his purported immortality. Guy Pearce (who was the troubled lead in The Proposition) is also chillingly disturbing in his portrayal of the sadistic dandy Rakes. Perhaps the biggest disappointment acting-wise, however, was the underused talents of Gary Oldman as gangster Floyd Banner. Not only was his screen time too small but Banner's role in the Bondurants' affairs is barely explored as his involvement feels arbitrary and unclear. Finally, the film is worth watching if only for the impressive soundtrack that includes a few tracks by Cave himself (of course) and other fittingly gripping pieces. 

1 comment:

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