It’s the 1930s and while in the big cities gangsters like Al Capone are making good weather selling illegally brewed alcohol, that alcohol of course has to come from somewhere. And that’s Virginia, a state where poverty rules and people have little possibilities other than brewing illegal whiskey.
In Lawless we follow the Bondurant brothers who live in Franklin County. Forrest has the reputation of being indestructible due to the fact he’s survived many illness and attach, and together with his brother Howard he’s got one of the biggest moonshine operations in the area. His little brother Jack wants to participate in the family business but Forrest feels Jack is too much of a coward to work with the real men. However, when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes passes by and Forrest doesn’t want to share his profits with him, this is the start of a blood fute between the brothers and Rakes who won’t stop before people will end up dead.
Lawless is based on true events from the Bondurant family and contains quite some solid names in the cast. Shia LaBoeuf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, and even Gary Oldman passes by for a small role. Add to that John Hillcoat as director (previously known from The Proposition – written by Nick Cave and also with Guy Pearce – and The Road, and you expect a raw gangster movie of the highest quality.
Sadly this isn’t the case. The case does its job perfectly, but the relation between Hardy and Chastain seems to be from another movie, and Guy Pearce almost seems to be a party pooper as he’s worked out his character of Rakes to the smallest details. No, the problem is in the script and the fact that the makers insisted on following reality which appears to have made them forget they’re actually making a movie instead of a documentary. Reality is nice, but things move forward too slow and it’s too boring to remain interesting while we kept wondering what we were looking at. A love drama, a family drama, or a gangster movie about a blood fute.
Lawless is a good movie but could have been much more if the makers hadn’t forgotten they were making a movie based on true events rather that shooting a documentary.
Image-wise Hillcoat does deliver a great experience that gets nicely transferred to Blu-ray. The color saturation and the contrast are a bit overdone at times by Hillcoat, but all in all it does look good and we didn’t see any compression errors. Also in the sound department we can’t complain. The dialogues are clear at all times, the effects noticeable, and even if the guns sound a bit simple, we’re talking about the 1930s and they didn’t have Magnum .45s yet at that time.