The cast of Lawless is very good at being very bad
Yikes. Someone has slit Tom Hardy’s throat in this movie, and he’s trying to hold things together with just his fingers. He plays a scary, handsome, 1930s-Virginia bootlegger who speaks like Javier Bardem’s No Country for Old Men psychopath crossed with Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade simpleton. (It took a second to work that out.) And it’s practically as tricky for Tom to stay alive and attractive in Lawless as it was for Johnny Depp in Public Enemies and Brad Pitt in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Pretty actors, what’s the thing with movies involving large knives and guns?
Speaking of artful, brutal, and morally rotten period films involving endangered outlaws, remember Australian Western The Proposition? Its director, John Hillcoat, and awfully moody composer-screenwriter and Bad Seed Nick Cave are back at their cruel games with Lawless, also involving three, uh, lawless (real-life) brothers, plus fiddle and banjo accompaniment.
The notorious Bondurants, Forrest (Hardy), Jack (Shia LaBeouf), and Howard (Jason Clarke), are making Prohibition moonshine—well, what would you do in hillbilly hell?—when a dandified special agent (Guy Pearce) starts spoiling things. It’s brass knuckles and Tommy guns time. Or Michael, Sonny, and Fredo versus Captain McCluskey and the boys with, um, fiddle and banjo.
The actors are all very good at being very bad. Even if you don’t have a crush on him, Hardy makes a weirdly regal, charismatic criminal. Pearce delicately conjures the sort of sick sadist we love but should never hug. His lilac leather gloves totally showcase blood. So thoughtful.
Fun psychopathy notwithstanding, Hardy and Pearce take too long to go mano a perfumed mano. Is it the odd lack of oxygen? The plot has some cardiac-arrest issues, and not just because of all the dead people. Jessica Chastain, quietly sexy in her underwritten barwench role, has to get naked to get anything pumping.
Incidentally, it’s illegal to underutilize Gary Oldman (playing Chicago gangster Floyd Banner), ever. Like, hand him a banjo already.
Watch the trailer for Lawless.