Director: John Hillcoat
Talent: Tom Hardy, Shia LeBoeuf, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce
Release Date: 7 September 2012
John Hillcoat reprises his collaboration with screenwriter Nick Cave (yes, that Nick Cave) for Lawless, the (“based on a true”) story of the Bondurant brothers, small-town moonshine wholesalers in prohibition-era America who, local legend has it, cannot be killed. A meandering plot, however, belies any claims towards the grandiose the film has, which are numerous. Shot through with dialogue and narration that skirts far too close to abject, heartwarming cliché while constantly descending into gleeful, grotesque violence, Lawless is tonally and morally inconsistent: a nightmarish Horatio Alger myth in which the brutality of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads is wrought into cinematic reality, without the camp or fragility of masculinity that enriches his musical work. Tom Hardy, as the middle Bondurant brother, Forrest, and Guy Pearce, as an effete and vicious Chicago lawman (a striking similarity to David Wenham’s English marshal from the previous Hillcoat/Cave collaboration The Proposition) turn in excellent individual performances, but uneven direction and a patchy script make Lawless a discomfiting and unrewarding experience.