Who would have thought that Shia LaBeouf would have had such the career he has had? I know when I saw him on Even Stevens so many years ago, I never dreamed he would make it past Disney, but here he is three transformers, disturbia, and an Indiana Jones movie later and still making more films. The newest notch to his belt is this week’s latest drama, entitled Lawless, a tale about the moonshine conspiracy in Franklin County. From the trailers I got very little about what this movie had to offer, so going into the theater I had no clue what to expect, other than Shia shouting his head off. What did my trip into the dark theater world reward me with? Read on as I share my thoughts on the Moonshine Kingdom world that is Lawless.
To start this review off, I scoped IMDB for the cast today and realized that there were a lot of big name actors participating in this movie. Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain and many more filled this film to the brim with star power. Now if you’re like me, movies that are jammed with celebrities are usually shallow, fragmented plots that pretty much stink to the very core. Not this movie my friends. Rather than attempting to give all of the actors their fair share of screen time, director John Hillcoat focused on keeping the story fluent, developing the characters, and bringing the moonshine forest to life. Although some of my favorites like Gary Oldman have a fraction of the screen time from others, they have enough involvement or scene stealing moments to drive the story and make their performance memorable. Outside of these minor roles though, the casting crews picks were surprisingly spot on in this movie. To my surprise, Labeouf did a fantastic job with this movie, trading in the silly, arrogant, wisecracking Sam and actually having a three dimensional character with a wide range of involvement. The heroic journey his character took in this movie, force Labeouf to play many parts that I doubted he could play, such as a powerful smuggler, a hapless romantic, and a vengeful spirit. Yes he still likes to scream loud, but this time his rants have more gusto, purpose and drive behind them than his calling for robotic cars to save his butt. Helping to drive Labeouf’s character development is Hardy. The British actor again amazed me as he somehow adapted a country, red neck accent that seemed to be as natural as half of my friends from high school. Accent aside, Hardy did a nice job playing this keystone character, managing to still use his tough guy stature to be threatening, but also softening up to show a gentler side. If you were a fan of his dynamic character in This Means War, then you might enjoy his performance in this movie, though this time the edge is a little more and the comedy is a little less than his spy counterpart.
I could go on and on about the acting, but I suppose you want some more details about this film. Although I’m not the biggest fan of illegal crime dramas, this movie surprisingly held my interest. The character development in particular was nice to see as most of the characters had more than one side to them. Yes, for those who got tired of seeing comedic dribble spouting characters, your patience is awarded with this movie. Now this doesn’t mean we just have characters sitting the park and opening up with a good cry. Instead these characteristics are pulled out as the smuggling operation evolves from a backwater delivery service into a moonshine empire. As the business grows and more people get to know Hardy and Labeouf, the two brothers begin to face more tangles in their world that push their characters to challenge their beliefs. The result of such dynamic characters is a story that keeps getting more interesting, and kept me in suspense about what would happen next. Although there were some obvious signs and predictable plot points, I was still uncertain at a few points in the movie.
What else is there to tell about this movie? I guess those looking for a mafia shootout will be disappointed in the action of this movie. Instead of bank robberies and alcohol induced shooting rants; Lawless uses the firearms as more of a threat than an actual weapon. Countless scenes in the trailers of the characters holding guns, are accurate representations of what the characters actually do, standing there screaming instead of firing, the exception being Pearce’s character. No the violence really comes in the form of harsh punishment such as beatings, slit throats, and torture than high adrenaline gun fights. As you can probably guess, these punishments are fairly graphic and I warn those with weak stomachs, or fainting at the site of blood. Being a rated R movie you can also bet there is plenty of cursing to support the southern accent heavy rage. However, the cursing is actually spread out and timed enough to not get stale, so I wasn’t as annoyed or bothered this time. Other than that, the illegal bootlegging world is well portrayed in this movie and helps add that extra oomph to draw you further into the movie.
Lawless is definitely a well casted and acted movie, and surprisingly entertained me for not knowing too much about it. Although there is some editing that could be done, this movie is worth a visit to the theater for the characters alone. Though again those who don’t like bloody violence, and depressing, soulless acts, may want to see a kid’s movie instead. My scores are below:
Movie Overall: 7.5