Fair (1 star)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and graphic violence.
Running time: 115 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
It is Franklin County, Virginia during Prohibition, which is where we find the bootlegging Bondurant brothers, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke),running a thriving moonshining business with the help of a pal with colorful name Cricket (Dane DeHaan). But the siblings’ blissful existence starts to crumble the day Jack sees Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman), a coldblooded gangster from Chicago, shoot one of their competitors dead with a Tommy gun.
Not long thereafter, a crooked Federal Agent, Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) pays a little visit to the Bondurants’ bar to demand a cut of their ill-gotten gains.
But hot-headed Forrest isn’t intimidated by the attempted shakedown. In fact, he threatens to kill the corrupt cop with a meat cleaver should the greedy creep ever set foot on the premises again.
Of course, that’s not the last the lads see of either Rakes or Banner, which soon proves problematical given that the ruthless newcomers are armed to the teeth and will stop at nothing to get their way. That is the ominous premise, which sets in motion the grisly goings-on which ensue in “Lawless,” a picture dedicated to an almost senseless celebration of gratuitous violence.
Directed by John Hillcoat (The Road), the movie was adapted from “The Wettest County in the World,” a supposedly-factual, historical novel by Matt Bondurant (grandson of Jack). The picture opens with a warning that what you’re about to witness is “based on a true story,” a claim presumably intended to discourage the viewer from questioning the veracity of the screen version, too.
However, what’s served up is basically a comical cross of Sam Peckinpah and Looney Tunes so farcical that the audience at the screening this critic attended shared a few hearty laughs at moments when none was intended. An over-the-top indulgence in sadism strictly recommended for folks with a stomach for gangster fare so gruesome as to border on the cartoonish.