I’ve never been much of a Shia LaBeouf fan; and what with the Transformers films and Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that’s no surprise. Lawless turns me around on him though, and further cements my admiration for the rest of the cast, as well the creative team behind the camera.
But Lawless is not your typical shoot-em up. It’s more slow and methodical with brutal parts to be sure; but they creep up on you. The comparatively tame prelude is nonetheless filled with foreboding. I couldn’t help thinking “Oh, this will not end well.” Interestingly enough, as brutal as it could be, it could have been so much worse, but it didn’t go there. A scene in which a woman is violently raped at knife-point is implied more than shown; and it works far more on your imagination that way.
Our mains being cast as the underdogs (and LaBeouf as the runt of that litter) sucks you in, and allows you to cheer for guys that are brutal; but somehow less so than their law-abiding counterparts charged with bringing them in by any means necessary. It’s a turnaround on a movie coming out soon — Gangster Squad — in which I’ll bet you’ll be pushed to cheer in the opposite direction. In any event, everything about this movie got under my skin, and I was hooked and tense throughout my viewing.
The cast brought it all home. Tom Hardy is magnetic and formidable onscreen, even when he’s just getting ready to do something. LaBeouf is surprisingly good (I never bought him as a action hero or a someone to be reckoned with, so his wanna-be status here works); and his chemistry with Mia Wasikowska is delightful. Jason Calrke is truly menacing and unpredictable to the end. Guy Pearce plays a lawman you love to hate really well. And smaller but no less important parts played by seasoned pro Gary Oldman and relative newcomer Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) are so necessary, I’m not sure how the movie might have gotten along without them.
The only thing that brings Lawless down a bit is in it’s pacing; although deliberate, it is also a bit meandering at times. But still I enjoyed it far more than the every-frame filled with action pacing of other movies of late.
Overall Rating for “Lawless” from Rich Bonaduce: A-
“Lawless” is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Written by: Nick Cave (screenplay), Matt Bondurant (novel)