LAWLESS aka WETTEST COUNTY aka WETTEST COUNTY IN THE WORLD (2012)
Running Time: 115 mins. Rating: 3 1/2 Stars/5 Stars
MPAA Rating: R
Director: John Hillcoat
Distributor: Weinstein Co.
Cast: Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Noah Taylor, Jason Clarke, Lew Temple, Nick Cave
Reviewed at Cannes International Film Festival
Is it just me or are we all dressing like these crazy hicks down in Franklin County, Virginia in the 1930s? It’s like this whole movie was sponsored by Rag & Bone with those denim shirts, khakis and construction boots. John Hillcoat’s LAWLESS shares a very modern interpretation of Matt Bondurant’s memoir, ‘The Wettest County in the World,’ a tale about three brothers smuggling booze throughout town. These trendy hunks are prancing around with their bad selves, beating people up with brass knuckles, wearing clothes with the price tag still on (or wait, wasn’t that in the ‘90s?).
Shia LaBoeuf couldn’t have been more perfect for the role of little brother Jack Bondurant who is too much of a wuss to shoot a pig, let alone an evil puritan terrorist who kills his best friend. We all know what’s going on with the bootlegging and all that, so let’s focus on a boy turning into a man. On how he courts a church girl, and what he does to impress her, and how getting beat up can really knock some sense into you. If you’re not already excited about watching LaBoeuf be a clumsy little teenager trying to gain respect among his brothers, get excited about the intensely violent moment where Guy Pearce kicks the living daylights out of him. He’s literally crying ‘Please stop, no more,’ and you know that’s not getting him anywhere.
There’s also a guy getting tarred and feathered, there’s a slitting of a throat, there’s a slew of gunshots and it’s all done with a tasteful charm that kind of turns you on (you know, if violence could be sexy). But beyond the violence there is a lot of comedic relief played by the leader of the pact Forrest (Tom Hardy), who believes himself to be such a badass legend, yet he can’t make the first move on Jessica Chastain. I love that she isn’t one of those whiney girlfriends that just fill up the screen. She literally throws the truth in his face and gets him to pull himself together. If walking down a corridor completely naked doesn’t scream out ‘bold woman’ I don’t know what else would.
This movie doesn’t stop moving. There is violence on every corner, but no one is paranoid and waiting up all night for someone to attack. There is just enough comedy to release the tension, and of course, you need a happy ending to make a Western film feel all right. Whether you’re going for Chastain’s tits or to see Shia LaBoeuf get beat up, you’ll be wildly entertained with these silly hillbilly boys.
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