Can Shia LaBeouf really act? How much does Gary Oldman need to be in a film to make a lasting impression? How tough can a man in a cardigan really be? These are all questions that Lawless poses and answers in it’s running time. Lawless is a post-western gangster flick based on the novel The Wettest County in the World: during the prohibition era the Bondurant brothers run a liquor bootlegging operation but new crooked Special Deputy Charles Rakes is after a share of the profits. The backbone of the story is the coming of age journey of the youngest brother, Jack Bondurant.

Jack Bondurant is played by Shia LaBeouf and this performance soon put to bed any doubts I had about his ability to be taken serious as an actor, I think that Lawless will be the film that builds the bases for LaBeouf’s future audition tapes because he is surprisingly good! However, he isn’t good enough to steal the show, despite being the main character. Guy Pearce was the stand out performer among an all star cast as the villain Charles Rakes; Pearce is incredibly good that as the film goes on you just can’t help but actually be filled with genuine hate towards his character. Gary Oldman manages to make sure his part of the film, although small, is unforgettable; Oldman pretty much picks up a check for shooting a car to pieces and hitting someone in the face with a shovel. Job done. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska do their jobs well to stand up well in a very testosterone driven film and the latter is definitely going to steal some hearts with this performance.

Tom Hardy who is having a terrific career puts in a performance just as good as any he has done before. He doesn’t have a lot to say as his character, the leader of the Bondurant boys Forrest Bondurant, isn’t much of a talker but as everyone soon finds out, if you anger him you will know about it. It is Tom Hardy that really proves that even though a man is wearing a cardigan he can still kick your ass ten times over before you even have time to raise a fist in defence. The real quality of Hardy’s performance comes in his timing and delivery which is perfect all the way through the film. There is a running joke (sort of a myth or a legend rather than laugh out loud puns) that the Bondurant boys are invincible, immortal or indestructible and after a few scenes with Forrest Bondurant you certainly believe this to be true.

I have read that the script has been accused of being lazily written in places but I found Lawless to be very well written; it was slow paced that led up to a big ending in the final act with enough action in between to keep everyone happy. Guy Pearce and Shia LaBeouf have a great fight scene which is one of the best and most genuine I have seen for a while. The relationships between the Bondurant brothers and their dynamic is really what makes Lawless interesting and the character development throughout is wonderful.

The final act comes down to what most gangster films end with. A gun fight. A lot of the time I am not a big fan of a shoot out because I don’t really find them that exciting, I would much rather see people going toe to toe in hand to hand combat but I found that the amount of care you had invested in the central characters did enough to make the shoot out a riveting watch as you jump around in your seat hoping and praying that none of your favourite characters are going to die and you can do nothing but wish and wish and wish that Pearce’s villain finally gets his comeuppance.

Lawless isn’t for everyone, but it was certainly for me.

My Rating: 8/10.

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