EDITOR'S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the movie of the week: "Lawless." Want to be a film fan? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3 stars out of 4
Usually, the best films of the season don't come out at this time of year; they are usually released closer to the holidays. Luckily, this movie is an exception to that rule. Based on true events, this is the story of an independent family of bootleggers trying to quietly make a living in "The Wettest County in the World" (a book by family member Matt Bondurant) in rural Virginia during the Great Depression.
The three Bondurant brothers, of very different personalities, run the family business, and all goes well until they become a bit too successful and the corrupt local politicians and lawmakers try to muscle in on their action. Now enter special deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pierce) and the fight is on. Pierce does an outstanding job as the menacing, vicious, cruel adversary that uses his position to maliciously try to beat and slash the brothers into submission. As the confrontation escalates, there are some very bloody encounters that are both detailed and extremely graphic. Tom Hardy does a very good job as the older, wiser brother, as does Jason Clarke as the aggressive brother not to be crossed, but the real standout is Shia LeBeouf as the younger brother Jack, who we watch as he grows from being just a driver and runt of the litter, into a strong and ambitious character who eventually confronts the evil Charlie Rakes, and actually had me rooting for the criminals.
A good movie for fans of realistic gangster movies that definitely deserves its "R" rating.
-- Steve Kalberg, Lawrenceville
2 stars out of 4
I really wanted to like this movie. It seemed to have everything I like most about the movies: period piece, check; historically accurate, check; fascinating actors, check; intriguing director, check. Too bad the film doesn't quite meet expectations.
The story centers on the bootlegging Bondurant brothers trying to dodge a zealous and unscrupulous special deputy. The brothers display a brash disdain for the law, even though it is the law that makes their hooch so valuable. Shia LaBeouf plays his part as the timid youngest brother well, but his character never seems fully fleshed out, and his actions don't always jibe with the personality that's been developed on screen. Guy Pearce, excellent in films like "L.A. Confidential" and "Memento," plays special deputy Charlie Rakes, who makes Elliot Ness look like a Keystone cop. Pearce shoots for the moon with the performance, which at times can be grating. The same cannot be said for Tom Hardy, who plays the leader of the Bondurant brothers so close to the cardigan -- literally -- that we're left wishing we could have seen what this movie could have been like had he let himself off his leash.
Better pacing, deeper characterization and more Gary Oldman could have made this the great movie I was expecting. Instead we get two hours of beautiful scenery, Guy Pearce preening, Tom Hardy looking dangerous and a final showdown that can only be described as a mess.
-- Jeremy D. Beauchamp, Lawrenceville
3 stars out of 4
"Lawless" was entertaining with very good character and plot development. The story never seemed too slow and the characters kept you involved in the movie. It was a nice change of pace after a summer of superhero movies to go to a movie geared mainly toward adults.
The story is about three brothers from Virginia producing moonshine in the early 1930s during prohibition. Shia LaBeouf's character, Jack (the youngest of the three brothers), is the main catalyst of the story and gets the most screen time. His two older brothers, Howard (the loose cannon) and Forrest (the muscle), try to keep Jack out of trouble while facing off against local sheriffs, gangsters and federal agents. Gary Oldman as a local gangster manages to steal every scene he is in.
The movie does earn its "R" rating with a healthy dose of violence but the violence is not too bloody and is in context with the plot of the movie. The movie also does a very good job of giving the viewer the feel of what it was like to live in that time period. All in all, a very good end of summer movie.
-- Mark Weinstein, Lawrenceville