Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Written by: Nick Cave, Matt Bondurant (novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Main Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Studio: Benaroya Pictures
Runtime: 116 min
Blu-ray Release Date: November 27 2012
HTS Overall Score: 78
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10035[/img]During the Depression-era and coinciding with the latter part of Prohibition Franklin County, Virginia was known as “the wettest county in the world”. It’s said that nearly every able-bodied citizen with the means was producing moonshine and selling it in liter jars. Three such true life men were the Bondurant brothers; Jack Bondurant (LaBeouf) the youngest of the trio who is consistently underutilized, underappreciated, and sometimes looked down on, Howard (Clarke) who keeps to himself, and the undeniable leader Forrest (Hardy) whose decisions are rarely questioned. As a cover the brothers run a legitimate bar during daytime hours, but behind the scenes are producing some top-notch hooch which they sell resulting in a pretty lucrative business. The Bondurant brothers and even their competitors have monetary arrangements with local law enforcement ensuring safe and uninterrupted passage across the bridge leading out of the county allowing them to distribute the moonshine. Everyone is enjoying the influx of money until Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Pearce) sent from Chicago arrives and demands that everyone transporting moonshine must now pay a service fee for crossing the bridge. Forrest being the eldest and in charge absolutely refuses to pay for what he has been
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10036[/img]able to do for years for free; it’s ultimately about pride, honor and not giving in to a crook than paying for something intangible. The rest of the “entrepreneurs” being much older and unwilling to get into a confrontation with Rakes agree to his terms. After making his stand Forrest and his brothers now try to keep up with their inventory and continue to sell their product while Rakes and his subordinates repeatedly locate and destroy their stills secreted away in the lush Virginia Tall Grass. It’s an uphill battle for the Bondurant brothers to keep their distilleries hidden and functioning because Rakes is a talented sleuth with a revenge mentality who keeps finding ways of shutting down their operation(s). With both parties playing outside the parameters of the law, the brothers with their “business” and Rakes extorting money from townsfolk who have succumb to his demands and on a mission to destroy the brothers, it seems inevitable that bloodshed is just an eventuality and violence is going to be a impactful element. This dynamic between Rakes and the brothers and how each side deals with the others moves and counter moves and the toughness involved is very believable, and this is important because if things felt cheesy and silly, realism and getting the period right immediately goes out the window.
Lawless moves along at an uneven, but very enjoyable pace with confrontations feeling realistic with some being unexpectedly very violent. The overall tone is serious as the brothers combat Rakes’ posse and his constant interference, especially since Rakes uses tactics beyond the law, but there are pleasant romantic moments as Jack courts a pretty local girl named Bertha (Wasikowski). Their relationship from the beginning and how it develops felt like it belonged and wasn’t a tacked on afterthought of a young romance. The story contains a good mixture of drama, action, and just the right amount of budding love. Perfectly timed moments of light humor are a nice welcome during occasionally slower parts.
Lawless doesn’t have that particular embellished Hollywood feel to it. It’s grounded throughout its entirety and always feels authentic. There’s nothing wild about the circumstances and things develop at down to earth speeds. The acting all around is fantastic with the dialogue feeling era-specific and natural. The roster of ancillary characters is blended in accordingly with the top tier characters and each in their own way contributes to the storytelling. The result is genuine insight into the rural and much small operations of the moonshine business. Aside from the romantic element the movie stays on point delivering an entertaining and factual (the Bondurant brothers did exist along with their story) look into a small, but very important slice of life during the 1930s when making your own alcohol was prominent, financially rewarding, but also very dangerous.
R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10031[/img]Energetic period dance music plays in the background as the brothers make their rounds delivering their moonshine whiskey in the opening scene. Both the instrumental score and robust music are handled with a nice balance making their presence known at appropriate times. Glasses breaking and chairs being kicked aside sound clear during lively parties. Everyday sounds like squeaky doors, footsteps, cars squealing theirs tires sound great, but gunfire really lacks a punch, sounding almost muffled at times; the sound of a Thompson sub-machinegun being emptied of its magazine is supposed to impress and pack an audible wallop. Voices and dialogue always sound crisp even outdoors where the crickets and other insects are chirping non-stop. The soundtrack in Lawless is relentless, continuously adding to the ambiance and enhancing the ambiance.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10034[/img]Set in the South of America in Virginia, but actually filmed in Georgia this Blu-ray transfer highlights the lush foliage, grasslands and swampy waters predominant in that part of the country’s topography. The brilliant greens, yellows, reds and other fall colors pop in the many outdoor shots. Indoor shots are a mixture of darker and very well lit shots, but the darker shots are so because of the faithful recreation of the era; electric lighting was sometimes at a minimum especially in the deep rural areas. The bar the Bondurant brothers run looks nicely textured and authentic. Clothing both on the well-to-do and regular dressed folk looks detailed and with fibers plainly visible. Facial detail is high with five o’clock shadows looking real and prickly. Black levels vary with some poorly lit indoor shots being difficult to distinguish. Color reproduction on the whole in Lawless looks natural all the way through.
-Lawless: The True Story of the Wettest County in the World
-Franklin County, Virginia: Then & Now
-The Story of the Bondurant Family
-Music Video: “Midnight Run” by Willie Nelson
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=10033[/img]A movie’s believability is always up to interpretation, even when it’s supposedly based on true events because those events over time can be skewed, but I really think Lawless with its appreciable lack of flash and foundation based on a real unfortunate part in history can be taken as legitimate and trustworthy. The manner in which the Bondurant brothers mature and their personalities change according to the situations was a pleasure to watch, and Guy Pearce’s physical transformation and the accompanying persona he takes on are just amazing, eerie, and at times a spectacle. Lawless without a doubt is low key and it works and I highly recommend it.
Buy Lawless on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Buy it!
Watch the Official Trailer
Recommendation: Buy it!
Watch the Official Trailer