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Genre: Crime, Drama

Directed by: John Hillcoat

Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska

Set in Virginia during the Depression, Lawless charts the story of three brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke) as they manufacture and supply moonshine around Franklin County whilst being mercilessly pursued by Special Deputy Rakes (Guy Pearce).

The film is once again the product of American dream pairing director John Hillcoat and musical oddball Nick Cave (screenwriter), fast becoming one of the most enthralling creative partnerships in the film industry. Representing not only a series of events based on a true story, but also a novelisation of those events was never going to be an easy task, but it speaks volumes for the duo that they have not only carried off such a feat, but actually established their own authority on the story.

Indeed, the film has one of those stories which makes you wonder why this hadn’t been snapped up by film studios sooner, with plenty of gang fights, comic interplay, beautiful women and, perhaps most significantly, a captivating dynamic between the brothers and the problems of the Depression.

It’s all too easy to be prejudiced about Shia LaBeouf, with many feeling he is annoying and a poor actor, but with this role he plays the younger, rebelling brother trying to make a name for himself in the family business to a tee. At times arrogant and other times vulnerable, his dynamic with the older Tom Hardy is as sweet on the eye as the taste of the Bondurant boys’ moonshine.

It says a lot about Tom Hardy that at such an early stage in his career he is able to pull off roles which will have film fans crying ‘legend!’, with the awkward but badass Forrest Bondurant following his equally stunning performance as Bane in the latest Batman. He is easily the most quotable character throughout, and his never-say-die attitude really captures the audience’s attention.

Perhaps most chilling is Guy Pearce’s performance as Special Deputy Rakes. Playing the charming but ultimately callous character with such raw tenacity that it is almost genuinely disturbing, one is reminded of Christoph Waltz’s performance in Inglourious Basterds. With roles like this, Guy Pearce is surely becoming the villain of choice for any cult film director.

There is perhaps a hint of inevitability about the film’s ending, but so often with gangster films this is the case, and, as one that is based on a true story, this can be overlooked. For those looking for a true ensemble film which boasts both great story, characters and performances, this is perhaps a contender for the best action drama film of 2012.


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