Prohibition, gangsters, brothers, Virginia, moonshine, a sadistic lawman, violence, lust, love and family...
That's some of the things you'll find in 'Lawless' directed by John Hillcoat ('The Road') and written by songwriter/musician Nick Cave (The Proposition). The film is based on Matt Bondurant's book 'The Wettest County in the World' which is his fictionalized account of his family.
The film tells the story of the infamous Bondurant brothers, Forrest, (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and the youngest sibling, Jack (Shia LaBeouf) who made and sold moonshine in the 30's. They lived in the mountains of Franklin County and were as different as brothers could be.
Jack, the ambitious one, dreams of expensive suits, fast cars, and getting it on with the very pretty and very religious, Bertha (Mia Wasikowka).
His bro, Howard, who survived the Great War, is the more laid back of the three, while Forrest (who nearly died of the Spanish Flu) is known far and wide as being immortal. He's also a guy you don't want to mess with.
Times are tough and jobs are scarce in these mountains, but the Bondurants are entrepreneurs and have built a thriving business by concocting an intense and popular brand of moonshine.
But Franklin County's bootlegging days are about to end with the arrival of Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) from Chicago. Rakes is a vicious, sadistic dude with a bad hairdo. He's determined to bring law to this lawless place, no matter what he has to do. Translation...He'll kill, maim, torture anyone who gets in his way.
And the Bondorants, who bow down to no one, are not about to let this power hungry, sexually conflicted jerk mess with their way of life.
'Lawless' is a beautifully shot, edgy, exciting, violent, touching portrait of a time in our history; when gangsters ruled the city streets and outlaws were the stuff legends were made of.
The three leads are excellent....I especially loved Tom Hardy. His character was a man whose anger could always be felt right below the surface. But at the same time, Hardy conveyed a gentle, powerful vulnerability and sensuality.
That was especially obvious in his scenes with Jessica Chastain who played Maggie, an emotionally wounded burlesque dancer.
Also worth mentioning is Gary Oldman as gangster Floyd Banner, who is both friend and foe to the Bondurants. Even though he's seen sporadically throughout the film, his presence is felt.
'Lawless' which opened in theatres, Wednesday August 29, 2012, received 4 1/2 bagels out of 5. I absolutely loved everything about it and John actually liked it as well.
Check out our video to see more of our thoughts and watch me try to convince John that his bagel rating needs some adjustment.
Two Jews on Film - By Joan Alperin Schwartz