There are two questions one must ask themselves when watching the summer Blockbuster ‘Lawless’, and they are ‘How many times can Shia Labeouf get punched in the face?’ and ‘How many times can Tom Hardy die and come back to life?’ The answer to both is: a lot.
This Prohibition-era, hill-billy hoe down is a tale of two brothers, (Forrest – Hardy, and Jack – LaBeouf) They are both moonshiners, who sell and export their drink to nearby villages, parties and small-time crooks. What basically happens is that they have a few run ins with criminals and the law, before stuff starts to get serious.
At this point, LaBeouf is being pounded like a ragamuffin, smacked in the face here, throw down some stairs there, all the while being rescued by his big brother Forrest, who proceeds to knock people’s faces off with his trusty knuckleduster.
The attention to detail on clothing, sets and the general realism of the characters is actually pretty damn good. If the story is lacking, the acting will allow you to not dwell too deep into that fact.
As Forrest and Jack plan to expand their business and production of the moonshine, the opposition (a combination unofficial, bent cops and gangsters), begins to get more serious on the pursuit. Charlie Rakes, (Guy Pearce puts in a great performance here), is a perfume wearing, hair slicked-back slime ball, obsessed with the idea of shutting down the brothers’ distillery. He proceeds to beat up Jack (LaBeouf) some more (naturally), and generally creeps his way into the brothers’ village every other day, making threats. He reminds me of when Christoph Waltz played Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds, just not as good. That’s a compliment to Waltz not a knock to Pearce, the role was played brilliantly.
Now what I should mention here is the Tom Hardy death phenomenon. Hardy, as Forrest, gets his throat cut open from ear to ear and is left for dead by the crooks, he proceeds to hold together his throat and lay on the floor for about twenty minutes before he is rescued by Bertha (Mia Wasikowska) and taken to the hospital. He sports a pretty massive scar with stitches for about 4 scenes and then it just disappears. He later gets shot about eight times in the body, which he obviously survives, and gets stabbed. On a flash forward to the forties, we see a drunken Forrest fall into an ice-cold lake through a sheet of ice. About time, we think, but no, Forrest survives this as well and shows that his invincibility lasts way into his old age.
It’s definitely worth a watch, just for the shock factor of the gory bits – some I’ve left out – and the realism. What I didn’t mention is that Jason Clarke puts in a good performance as the brother’s friend Howard, a sort of underdog character, who becomes likeable in the end.
For fans of: Boardwalk Empire, Inglorious Basterds, (and at times) The Village