“If you enjoyed Public Enemies, you’ll love Lawless”. Never has a sentence filled me with so much dread. I can’t bear Public Enemies. I thought it was really awful, and have often cited it as one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I always try to go into the cinema with an open mind, I’ve often been surprised by films that I have previously had low expectation of, but with Lawless I just couldn’t shake off the looming Public Enemies shaped cloud threatening to ruin my evening.
Lawless depicts the true story of the Bondurant brothers, a entrepreneurial trio involved in bootlegging moonshine during the prohibition. Starring Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf as the principle characters, Lawless also boasts an impressive supporting cast, with Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska as love interests, Guy Pearce as the main antagonist, and Gary Oldman as gangster Floyd Banner.
As Lawless commenced, any fears that I was about to waste another two hours of my life on a true story gangster-esque film were dissipated. One of my main problems with Public Enemies was that not much happened during the whole film, there seemed to be plenty of Christian Bale chasing Johnny Depp around and not a lot else. Lawless couldn’t be further from this. I found the plot of the film to be perfectly paced, with the right amount of romance and comedy moments.
Comedy in a “serious” film is always a minefield, too much and no-one takes the rest of the film seriously, too little and it can be seen as too dry. Lawless does comedy perfectly. Tom Hardy plays his role brilliantly, as the brooding head of the family, and it felt like most of the comedic moments came from him. Hardy proves once again just how great an actor he is by communicating more in single syllables and noises than most people can in a sentence, and often receiving the most laughs.
Whilst the film does have its laughs, it can never be said that it is anything remotely close to a comedy. The comedic interludes between the graphic scenes of violence provide a stark contrast, proving what a difficult era the Bondurants lived in.
As a whole, I loved the film. The setting was perfect – breathtaking views and authentic Western towns. The film also benefited from being perfectly cast, with the tension really obvious between LaBeouf’s character and his two brothers. I could really empathise with each of the characters, an ode to their development throughout the film. In fact, at one point when Guy Pearce’s Charlie Rakes turns up, there was an almost pantomime audible gasp throughout the cinema – showing just how much fear everyone had for the lives of the Bondurants. I can’t remember the last time I was more pleasantly surprised by a film, 21 Jump Street perhaps.
My only gripes with the film itself lie within the opening scenes – the accent took me a little longer to get used to than I’d like, but that’s my problem rather than the film itself, and I didn’t miss out on any important details and quickly adjusted to it. The biggest problem I have is with the films trailer. I think it’s incredibly unrepresentative of the screen time each actor gets; Gary Oldman being a prime example. However, if the only problem I can pick with a film is that its trailer was misleading, then I think I’ll let it off.