By Lee Fisher on September 11, 2012 in Film
There’s a danger in reviewing Lawless of giving it a poor-to-middling review because of what it ISN’T. Because it isn’t a really brilliant film, it doesn’t reinvent any cinematic wheels, It doesn’t have much by way of characterisation or even plot.
But it is stupidly good fun, stylishly rendered. From the old timer Christians washing feet in the church house to pantomime villain Guy Pearce wiping a victim’s blood from his fancy dan leather gloves, we’re deep in Nick Cave world (never mind that Lawless is based on a true story). Cave wrote his first novel And The Ass Saw The Angel without ever visiting the deep South where it’s set, and his screenplay for Lawless is driven by the same mythical notion of a Southern Gothic land of swamps and violence and sadism.
Long time collaborator John Hillcoat does a brilliant job of realising Cave’s vision (as does DP Benoit Delhomme, who works wonders here), and in many ways Lawless is a close companion to the previous Cave / Hillcoat collaboration on The Proposition – more bloody violence in the arse end of nowhere. The cast are solid, even though there’s not a great deal to do – as head of the bootlegging bad boy Bondurant family, Tom Hardy mumbles like a good’un, while Shia LaBouef is decent if not outstanding as the ambitious little brother. As the love interest, Jessica Chastain is radiant but rather sidelined (which is becoming a habit, someone needs to give her a role of real substance, and soon).
The story, such as there is, hinges on big city corruption eating in to small town, deep south moonshinining (think Dukes Of Hazzard scripted by William Faulkner) and allows plenty of opportunity for gleefully rendered violence, hokey backwoods wisdom and some great performances (the aforementioned Guy Pearce, big time gangster Gary Oldman, the frankly simian third Bondurant brother Jason Clarke). There’s a lot of humour here, and despite much of the film being fairly dark (and often brutal) there’s a real sense of devilry, of Cave and Hillcoat and the cast really revelling in the Bonnie & Clyde-go-hillbilly clichés. Props also for a fantastic soundtrack, another typically Cave project that sees bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley taking on The Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat and winning.
- Review: The Cave Of Forgotten Dreams