Lawless is the film adaptation of the 2008 book The Wettest Country in the World by Matt Bondurant. Directed by John Hillcoat, this is a brutally violent look at a family-run bootlegging business during the prohibition era. Hillcoat holds nothing back in his dark representation of gangsters in outback America facing up to corrupt Police.
It's fair to say, that Hillcoat's previous films display his great skill at telling stories of stark survival, such as the The Road. And Lawless sits perfectly with his previous work. The big difference here is that this is a story flooded with powerful characters that pull the audience off into many different directions.
On top of this, the gifted Australian musician and screenwriter Nick Cave provides the screenplay. Cave has worked closely with John Hillcoat before and this outing is a clear display of how well these guys connect. The script is outstanding and he even supplies some of the brilliant music along with Warren Ellis.
I'm sure you would agree, that a real stand out is the amazing cast. The three Bondurant Brothers are portrayed perfectly by Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke and Shia La Beouf. Leader of the group Forrest is played by Tom Hardy, who gives a terrifying portrayal of this brutal beast of a man. Shia La Beouf plays the baby of the family Jack. Now, no matter what you think of La Beouf's previous suspect choice of roles, he is great in this film. Jason Clarke gives a commanding performance as the oldest brother Howard. On top of that, Gary Oldman is excellent yet drastically underused. But it is the brilliant Guy Pearce who steals the whole show. Cast as the villain, Special Agent Charley Rakes, Pearce is incredible and so should have got an Oscar for his contribution.
The women of the story are played by Jessica Chastain as Maggie and Mia Wasikowska as Bertha. As the love interests of Forrest and Jack, these characters offer a strong backbone. But don't quite get the screentime that they should have. They both give wonderful performances, yet seem to be written too far into the fringes.
It has to be said, that Lawless is excessively violent in places. There are many scenes that could be a little overwhelming for some. But, all in all, this is a powerful piece of cinema with a superbly tense atmosphere. It sure brings something fresh to the gangster genre and is well worth watching – if only to see Guy Pearce's performance which is totally unmissable.