Tuesday, 4 September 2012




18. 115 Minutes. Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke & Guy Pearce. Director: John Hillcoat. Screenplay: Nick Cave.

If you love classic, period crime pieces like 'The Untouchables' and 'Public Enemies' then you're going to be all over these 'Lawless' criminals. Based on the autobiographical book 'The Wettest County in the World' by Matt Bondurant (the story of his brothers are bonded here from the old pages to the cinematic stages) this act turner of liquor and lives flows perfectly. This is all thanks to the collaboration of director John Hilllcoat and singer/songwriter/screenwriter legend Nick Cave who provides an amazing audio backdrop to a brutal, beautiful, bold and brilliant American story of past times for a new generation.

'Lawless' concerns the small-town, true tale, illegal activity of the Bondurant brothers. It's whiskey business (moonlighting moonshine to be exact) but business is good. That's thanks to great performances by Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf who wants in too like Gary Oldman and his gang of Al Capone wannabes. Business may be booming, but a threat is looming as Guy Pearce and his squad of police want to put our bootleggers out of business. Add a couple of leading ladies to be (in Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain) and you have a potent perfect mix that hits hard, straight with no chaser.

Set in old Franklin County, Virginia, this small town affair is a big-screen, post Summer blockbuster that is one of the best pictures of the year. Viciously violent but honestly heartfelt, this truly tense and grueling gripping film leaves you further to the edge of your seat than just another tired cliche. This classically worked, traditional tale is one that left this writer gritting his teeth and scratching at the arms of his seat. That doesn't even happen with horror movies anymore. Perhaps it's because of the horrific, hard-hitting violent action. Or maybe the thrilling emotional resonance which is rose with the stakes. Blood, sweat and tears are shed for the hardest worked and genuinely real, formidable feature.

If you thought that Tom Hardy's biggest, boldest and best performance this year (or ever) came with his incoherent but inspired, back breaking, muscle bound role as Batman's strongest nemesis Bane in 'The Dark Knight Rises' you'd be wrong. Just like he did in 2011 with last years best picture ('Warrior') Hardy surprises us again. Now why the man-who is overcoming the likes of Fassbender and Gordon-Levitt to be the current, go-to, best around-is still surprising us with his talent is beyond us.

Maybe it's because he's just that good. The most versatile, chameleon character around. Another one of those actors you forget is British. As the last of the Batman trilogy is still drawing a post-Summer crowd and record breaking box-office returns Hardy hits us once again with another stellar show. The Marlon Brando mumbling is back-along with the weight-but with an accent that is distinctive by the drawl and more seriously sublime scenes than he has cardigans, Hardy's hard-worked, distant but right there depth of emotional acting rules over this picture like his big brother characters legend.

If you think that method acting is magnificent then wait until you see the maddening methods of Guy Pearce. In some ways looking even older than his 'Prometheus' character the ever versatile and vastly underrate Pearce toes the opposite line of the law than his goody, two shoes character in the classic 'L.A. Confidential'. For the record here Pearce's feet are placed firmly in the bad guy boots. With a sinister sneer this vicious, vile villain is as disgusting as his slicked back hair. With every guilty act he combs over in the name of the law, you'll be convinced he's on the wrong side and just how callous his character is will make you-for this film-hate the good Guy Pearce. Now that's the mark of an incredible actor.

He even makes Gary Oldman's tommy-gun toting gangster look tame. Still as Gary joins up with Batman co-star Hardy like he did on 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' he gives another signature performance alongside great support from Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke. Still the real draw of this movie is the surprise, breakthrough, performance from Shia LaBeouf. With heart and soul and plenty of resonating, emotional tears to boot, Shia develops as an actor through this film like his character. From bashfully shy and retiring to confident, this coming of age part transforms this former Disney child to a significant player just like his afforded role in 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' did for his acting account. LaBeouf brings sheer brilliance to this film. Those who underrated him will understand this man now. If he keeps bringing the passionate parts like this, the love and roles are going to craft quite a career.

'Lawless' is flawless. This prohibition era piece is perfectly epic. The cinematography is as classically beautiful as the old fashions, automobiles and Western style saloons. This cowboy tale is a wildly worked classic. Blazing like brimstone the taught tension boils as the blood does. From formidable fist and fire fights to intimidating and influential matters of the mind you have to get a cut of this. They didn't make films like this anymore...until now. The old ones are always the best and this really is the new timeless motion picture captured for the mainstream. Now you'll drink to that. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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