Matthew Jones07 September 2012

Film review: Lawless

Expect lots of pre-War American iron. Hammond will love it, if he can stand the violence…

Moonshining has, whether you know it or not, left an indelible mark on the world of cars. Early hot-rodding, NASCAR, The General Lee - it all owes something to the distribution of illicit booze. As does Lawless, a brutal glorification of prohibition-era Virginia, courtesy of iconic director, John Hillcoat (him of The Proposition) and starring Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf.

Based on Matt Bondurant's book, The Wettest County in the World, this visceral true story follows three brothers' (Hardy, Clarke, LaBeouf) bootlegging business in the Appalachian hills as they refuse to bow to the new sadistic, corrupt lawman (Guy Pearce). And their amoral approach to free enterprise sees them piloting the era's latest machinery (largely Ford Model As, one of which manages to actually run on booze), transporting their wares to the speakeasies of Chicago and flogging it to the local kingpin (Oldman).

Desperate not to disturb the romance of this tale, Benoît Delhomme's photography presents the bucolic tale - and classics that increase in loveliness with the Bondurant's profits - beautifully. Which, frankly, is welcome respite from the knuckledusters-in-faces, knives-in-sex-parts ultra-violence that Lawless is peppered with.

VERDICT
We went expecting good ol' boys spanking pre-war Fords around the Appalachians. We left feeling slightly damaged from the breathless violence. Watch, but not with the kids. Or expectations of anything other than mild entertainment and the occasional glimpse of pre-war cars.

Now watch the trailer below. 

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