Friday 31 August 2012

Lawless: Absolutely Lawless

Until competitively-priced knitwear range Hardy's Cardies becomes a reality, it looks like the man who buggered up the Bat is going to have to stick to acting. No bad thing I guess; he's fairly good at it, and easily the best thing in John Hillcoat's whiskey and blood-soaked prohibition era gangster / western / wangster / wengstern / gengwangsternster Lawless.

Shuffling about in a range of strokably-soft-looking cardigans, grunting in a voice that sounds like Barry White at 28% normal speed and occasionally turning someone's face to mush with a knuckleduster, Hardy rules his scenes like a big cuddly bear. With a cardy and a knuckleduster. He's the standout member of a brilliant but scattergun cast which includes a refreshingly bearable Shia LaBeouf (I must be getting soft in my old age), excellent performances in woefully underwritten roles for Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain, a devilish Gary Oldman in way too few scenes... and Guy Pearce.

Guy Pearce. I'm not sure about Guy Pearce. I love him to bits and he's amazing, but the way he plays his character in Lawless is like having Keith Flint from the Prodigy belting out 'Firestarter' during the funeral of a beloved royal. Pearce wanders in with plucked eyebrows and an insane haircut as if he's inadvertently stumbled off the set of The Hunger Games, and proceeds to pantomime his way through various beatings, shootings and screaming fits in a way that makes Michael Sheen's role in Tron Legacy look understated.
Astonishingly, he doesn't derail the film, which is a testament to Hillcoat's direction - as is the satisfyingly bone-crunching violence, the loving attention to period detail and gorgeous costumes and the tenderness of Hardy's character's relationship with Chastain's.

Unfortunately Nick Cave's script reeks of someone who's watched The Godfather and GoodFellas once too often. Lawless shares so many story beats with those films that it's almost a remake of both films in one: Tightly-knit family heavily involved in crime? Check. Youngest brother dragged in to family business after violent encounter with the law? Check. Kinetic montage as crime business takes off? Check. What remains unchecked is any sense of attachment to the characters, a reason why we should care whether they live or die and a visual aesthetic to match Coppola's or Scorsese's.

Enjoyable while it lasts and buoyed immensely by The Hardigan, Lawless is more or less instantly forgettable, thanks in no small part to a disappointingly cheesy epilogue which has none of the balls of the preceding 100 minutes. And as good as LaBeouf may be, his head still looks like a massive brussels sprout.


  1. I like Shia LaBeouf and I always have. I'll see myself out.

    P.S. Apart from Indiana Jones, OBVIOUSLY.

    1. No. I will see you out. Mind the ste - oh, too late.