Release date: May 19, 2012 (Cannes); scheduled for U.S. release: August, 2012
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Screenplay by: Nick Cave
Based on the novel “The Wettest County in the World” by: Matt Bondurant
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Dane DeHaan and Guy Pearce
Running Time: 115 minutes
What with the name Lawless … in truth, there ought to be a law. A law against any more Depression-era bootleg movies that don’t have enough lightning in their white lightning to make us want to watch one more twangy tale ’bout them grubby backwoods Blue Ridge Mountain boys firin’ up their guns along with their stills. Between their fightin’ and feudin’ with the local competition and the sheriff, and having to deal with threats to life and limb leveled by those fancy city gangsters rolling into town with speeches slicker than their hair, these dirt poor hillbillies just might want to be left alone for a spell. At least until someone comes up with something new to say.
It’s not that we’re so besotted with Jimmy Cagney’s Public Enemy of 1931 through Johnny Depp’s Public Enemies of 2009 – with a whole lot of Untouchable Ladies in Red, Bonnies and Clydes in between – that we can’t take one more dip into that tired old well. But the story’s got to have more kick than some two-bit swill that even Ma Barker’s Ma wouldn’t swallow.
Which leads us to director John Hillcoat’s and screenwriter Nick Cave’s latest collaboration of Lawless, based on the Matt Bondurant novel “The Wettest County in the World.” Originally a loosely fictive account of Bondurant’s own grandfather Jack and his two grand-uncles Forrest and Howard, the film opens up in Franklin County, Virginia in 1920. A quaking young Jack can’t shoot a pig; his two older brothers, looking on in disgust, do it for him. Foreshadow alert.
We zoom to 1931, and meet the adult versions of the boys. Older brother Howard (Jason Clarke) has come home from the Great War, returning with a raging violent psychosis that he picked up as a souvenir along the way. Middle brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) survived the Spanish flu that wiped out the boys’ parents. He’s the Harry Potter of Appalachia – and as the Bondurants’ leader, he never lets people forget that he and his kin are magically invincible. Young Jack (Shia LaBeouf), is still squeamish around guns. He may dress to kill … but he can’t actually do it.
[For the full review and Kimberly's um, killer rating, please click here]