There came a point watching Lawless when the strangest thought occurred to me: I’m really enjoying this performance from Shia LaBeouf. While I’ve been scoffing at how the Transformer destroying charisma-vacuum seems convinced that by being arty and taking off his clothes is his best way to reach credibility, in Lawless he just puts on a fine performance. How nice it is to have preconceptions tackled and to be genuinely surprised at the cinema.
Set during the prohibition era, the Bondurant brothers – Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are classical outlaws, bootlegging liquour. Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) lives outside the law and demands a cut from their business which unyielding Forrest denies, providing the film’s rather simple antagonism. Directed by John Hillcoat (who made the devastatingly bleak and beautiful The Road), Lawless also looks fantastic but it is instead a gritty, full-on violent western with some terrific performances from its stars, not least from supporting females Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska. It might not be hugely memorable and the plot is far from gamechanging, but it’s well put together and gets the best out of its parts.
Although I can’t say for certain whether it was a particular fault with the cinema’s sound system, a lot of dialogue did however seem to suffer from the Jeff Daniels symptom – marble chewingly mumbly but its a testament to the performances that this wasn’t too bothersome.
So feel free to keep your clothes on Shia, and keep on making perfectly good films like this.
Review by David Rank
Lawless is out on 7th September in the UK. Certificate 18 (UK). Running time 115 mins.
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