By December 1933 Prohibition Finished


29 August 2012| No Comments on Lawless     by Sean Chavel


A based on a true story dud that thinks it’s elegantly, elegiacally violent. Lawless takes place in the woodlands outside of Chicago in the Prohibition era, but it mostly drove me nuts for 110 minutes. Tom Hardy, a meatloaf in a cashmere sweater, is the big head of the Bondurant family operations. Jason Clarke, twisting his mouth in a hayseed idiot way, is brother number two. Shia LaBeouf, with his Malibu tan, is the little third brother who gets socked in the face by everyone else in the cast. The movie nearly wants to keep secret how bootlegging operations work. It would be more fun if patrons were handed out tin cans to toss at the screen before it starts.

I dunno, for some reason this is one of those movies where the first half hour feels insistently incoherent and clueless as it goes from one garbled pseudo-tough dialogue exchange to the next while outsider cops are trying to bust in on their rustic little town. The male aggression stuff is interrupted briefly by the arrival of Jessica Chastain, the victim role where she finally shows her breasts to the audience – she shows them willingly to Forrest (hardy on, Hardy). Mia Wasikowska doesn’t need to show-off anything as the preacher’s daughter who elicits Jack’s attention (LaBeouf).

Director John Hillcoat (“The Proposition,” “The Road”) could have tossed away much of the first half of the script, if only the brothers talked about the threat of crazy sadistic lawman Charlie Rakes – played by Guy Pearce with a hairline so high and a skin complexion so pallid you nearly mistake him for a Dick Tracy character. It’s the cops that are lawless, the movie is saying, because they’re sadistic enough to kill without going through the whole due process thing.

The pauses by the actors are excruciating – you feel them reciting, then reflecting on the words they speak. When you finally get to the highly anticipated showdown between bad guys vs. bad law guys, it turns out to be far more macho-contrived than sensible. The audience I sat with cackled at the screen as guys blown apart with holes kept getting up on two legs for more. The end credits show you an authentic black & white photograph of the real Bondurant Brothers. From the grave, I bet they’re hollering Remake!

110 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “The Public Enemy” (1931); “Scarface” (1932); “The Untouchables” (1987); “Public Enemies” (2009).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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