John Hillcoat ('The Road') directs this crime thriller set in rural Virginia in the early 1930s, adapted by musician-screenwriter Nick Cave from the biographical novel by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of one of the main characters. Brothers Jack and Forrest Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy) set up as bootleggers, but soon find themselves under threat from the authorities who want a cut of their profits in the form of 'security money'. A vicious turf war ensues as the brothers fight tooth and nail to retain their hard-won livelihood. The supporting cast includes Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Noah Taylor and Jessica Chastain.
There's an awful lot to like about Lawless. In front of the camera, it boasts a far stronger than you might expect leading performance from Shia LaBeouf, for instance. Playing alongside him is the screen-dominating Tom Hardy, taking the role of his brother. They're two of the three Bondurant brothers, living out in Virginia during the time of prohibition, and trying to keep a supply of alcohol running. This means there's also room for Gary Oldman's brief appearance as a mobster you wouldn't want to mess with, and Guy Pearce's scene-stealing federal agent.
It's a bit of a muddled film at times in truth, but Lawless, at its best, is gripping entertainment. Stylishly put together by director John Hillcoat, whose earlier The Proposition is an excellent companion piece, Lawless also boasts excellent music from Nick Cave. Cave also penned the screenplay.
Interspersed with excellent acting, humour and sudden violence, Lawless is very much worth a watch. The disc's package of extras doesn't make as much of the source material as you'd hope, though. It's a decent selection that you get, it's just there's room for a far more forensic look at the period, and the particular characters that inspired the film.
Still, it's a strong movie, that overcomes a few problems to more than justify the investment in it. Recommended, and do check out The Proposition if you've not seen it, too. --Jon Foster