Rated R 115 min. 2012

Lawless (R) John Hillcoat's Lawless, much like his last two films — the often ugly The Proposition and the dour, depressing The Road — is more a movie to be admired than genuinely enjoyed. While I'm not one to shy away from onscreen nastiness, there's a repulsiveness and visceral nature to the way in which the director and screenwriter/musician/frequent Hillcoat collaborator Nick Cave approach violence that's discomforting and borderline repugnant. There's little shocking or provocative in the bloodthirsty way that Lawless tells the tale of three brothers bootlegging moonshine in the mountains of Virginia during the height of the Depression. Rather, there's a sense of brutality and nihilism, and the feeling that no character is safe, and that nothing good can come from anyone that makes the film difficult to sit through. Regardless of where your tastes lie, the film is stylishly filmed by Hillcoat, whose occasional flourishes of artsiness maybe hint at a more waggish director who lies beneath. He's also got a great cast to work with, and even manages to get a solid performance out of the oft-distracting Shia LaBeouf as our protagonist — a notable accomplishment. Throughout the movie, the things that Lawless attempts but doesn't quite pull off — a sense of humor, an occasional poetic cinematic embellishment — made me unable to shake the feeling that I'd rather just be watching the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing. As a flawless balancing act between gritty noir gangster flick and caustic dark comedy, the Coens' film is the perfect embodiment of what Hillcoat's film would be in an untainted world. —Justin Souther

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: John Hillcoat

Writer: Matt Bondurant and Nick Cave

Producer: Michael Benaroya, Megan Ellison and Douglas Wick

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska and Dane DeHaan

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