Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Lawless - The scoop and digest

Before seeing Total Recall, which unfortunately from my point of view will be delayed until late this week, I was invited to an early screener of John Hillcoat's Lawless.

It's based on a true story so that always puts the fear of God up me as I've seen many movies based on and/or inspired by fact and some have been a good excuse to catch up on some beauty sleep.

One of the best examples of a snore job I can give was Machine Gun Preacher.

I was pleasantly surprised by this effort and is well worth a watch.

It's worth taking note that this is not officially released until 7 September.

As usual, please be aware that spoilers and/or plot details may be revealed.

This is adapted from the novel The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant.

The basic plot is a trio of brothers run a bootlegging business of distributing Moonshine whisky during the Depression in Franklin County, Virginia.

Plying their trade sees them encounter no end of problems with nasty and corrupt Deputy Rakes (Guy Pearce) being the main adversary that the brothers face.

Jars are nearly as important as the contents they hold...

Along with Rakes, other inconveniences include the competition of others muscling in, a gangster in Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) and female interest including one brother having the task of impressing a seemingly out of bounds preacher's daughter.

Let's just say that business is rife and life is never dull for the Bondurant siblings.

The leader and the 'invincible' brother is Forrest (Tom Hardy), closely followed by Howard (Jason Clarke) and the quiet Jack (Shia LaBeouf).

They are aided in their illegal activity by Cricket (Dane DeHaan) who is not only a dab hand at keeping the Moonshine flowing but also has other innovative uses like adapting cars.

Jack and Cricket are out on a delivery run and because Cricket forgets to fill the tank up, the scapegoat comes up with a novel idea of using Moonshine as a replacement fuel.  They're soon up and running again.

What justifies its 18 cert is the bone crunching and various acts of graphic bloody violence.  Hardy is more than handy with a knuckle duster as he beats up various thugs and Pearce dishes out his own form of crooked justice in the pursuit to take down the Bondurants.

Clarke is also close at hand to help out with any situation that demands fisticuffs.

Inevitably, as tensions run high and affairs escalate with Rakes, as does the blood and nicely, this is not a case of big men flexing muscles and deflecting blows with their egos and testosterone.

In probably the film's most shocking scene, a pair of testicles is removed from a guy sent to more than rough up the brothers and are delivered as a 'present' to Rakes.  Although the eunuch style operation is unseen, the effect is no less powerful.

In a cheesy but nevertheless decent line.  When Jack appears after the action, Howard says something like "Why don't you show some balls."

When Rakes opens his early Christmas present, he's slightly shocked...

As this is set during the 1920s, what's important is not to make the landscape and costume either unrealistic or futuristic.  You can be sure that Hillcoat has this under control.

Performances are impressive as Hardy (grunting somewhat) and Clarke add the muscle and assert their authority in numerous situations, but I was most surprised by LeBouf as he is forced to gradually outgrow his timidity and grow a pair.

I'm really not a fan but he handles his char with surprising ease.

In addition, I'm really pleased for Dane Dehaan as he was great in Josh Trank's Chronicle and is equally fine as the handy ace in the Bondurant's pack.

What I found strange is that Gary Oldman hardly has any screen time and considering his role, you'd think this would be quite the opposite.  He nonchalantly guns down and whacks people with little emotion or regret.

Pearce is excellent as the villain and as nasty as this sort of char can be.

Who'd of thought that after portraying Mike in famous Ozzy soap Neighbours that he'd be such hot property in Hollywood.

After starring as a drag queen in Priscilla, his big break came in L.A.Confidential and from then on, the rest is history.

The female support is pertinent and while nothing amazing, is suitably decent.

It's always difficult to have a bit of light relief when dealing with such subject matter but the right amount is injected from the humour syringe.

I do have to doubt Forrest's 'invincible' tag and was he really this tough (especially his throat)?

When it all comes to a head, its penultimate scene with all concerned reaches a satisfying conclusion.

All in all, it's a very commendable, gritty and entertaining drama boasting the right amount of action and emotion while never becoming ridiculous.

Very good stuff.

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