The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Lawless | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Lawless

Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, Noah Taylor

The story of the Bondurant brothers who ran a bootlegging operation in prohibition era Missouri.
Coming from Director Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave, the duo behind the excellent Aussie western "The Proposition", one would expect a far more interesting take on the bootlegging legend than what's offered up here. Their last collaboration debunked the folk hero scoundrels of Australia's pioneer days as no more than blood-thirsty criminals, much the same as their fellow countryman Andrew Dominik did with the outlaws of the American West in "The Assassination of Jesse James".
Every culture has it's dubious folk heroes, from Ned Kelly in Australia to Jesse James in America. It's easy to look back with misty eyes but the truth is they were usually just cold-blooded killers with no more interest in life than making a quick buck at someone else's expense. The bootleggers who took advantage of America's ludicrous prohibition experiment are just such a case, so often portrayed as good old boys fighting against an interfering government in their pursuit of the American dream. Curiously, no such revisionism is ever afforded to the likes of Al Capone, always rendered as the epitome of evil. One can't help but wonder if the likes of Capone were Anglo-Saxon Protestants, like the bootleggers who fueled their industry, would America view them with equal fondness? Strange as it seems to most of us in the west, there will be folk songs written in parts of the world eulogizing Osama Bin Laden. 
There's no such revisionist insight this time from Cave and Hillcoat, this movie has all the depth of a "Dukes of Hazzard" episode. The good old boys here are the Bondurant Boys; Hardy, LaBeouf and Clarke. They reign over Hazzard...sorry, Franklin County through fear. We never really see just why they're so feared as the movie wants to portray them as it's heroes (due to it being based on a book by one of their ancestors). The villain is Pearce, hilariously over the top as a G-Man sent from Chicago to shut down their operation. He's possibly the worst lawman they could have sent as it seems to take him months just to find their distillery despite it being housed in a massive wooden building which billows smoke into the air. 
None of the actors seem to agree on what sort of film they're making. Pearce and Oldman belong in a Dick Tracy serial while Hardy and LaBeouf think they're in a Missouri remake of "The Godfather". You can see why LaBeouf chose this role, a character obsessed with being taken seriously by his elder brothers. LaBeouf similarly keeps letting us know he wants to be taken seriously as an actor. This won't help his cause, a fidgety performance which betrays a lack of confidence. 
During the seventies, Roger Corman produced many movies set in the bootlegging world. They're all a lot more enjoyable than "Lawless".