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Richard Roeper Blog

“Lawless,” bad-ass from start to finish

I’m Richard Roeper and coming up next, Tom Hardy, Shia LeBeouf, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain star in the bootlegging gangster epic “Lawless.” Is it an Oscar contender? My review right now.

From its opening frame to the final shot, “Lawless” has that badass movie vibe that I just love. It crackles with violent energy, some stunning visuals and great performances from an enormously talented cast.

Tom Hardy owns the screen playing the legendary bootlegger Forrest Bondurant, who some say is immortal. Guy Pearce is the vile, apparently psychotic special agent who swoops into the Virginia mountains from Chicago, hell-bent on destroying the Bondurant brothers.

 

It’s too bad the story is narrated by Shia LeBeouf’s Jack Bondurant, the youngest brother. When LeBeouf’s sharing a scene with Hardy, Gary Oldman’s big-time mobster or Pearce, he seems overmatched.

That’s not the case with the luminous Jessica Chastain, who plays a former dancer who escaped Chicago looking for a quieter life. She picked the wrong town and the wrong guy. Chastain is just lovely and note-perfect in every scene here.

Though the story’s familiar and we can pinpoint certain developments two scenes in advance, “Lawless” has never a dull moment. It’s intense and violent, but there are also a couple of really big laughs, and a genuinely sweet romance between the grunting Hardy and the sultry Chastain.

No doubt director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave have taken great dramatic liberties with the story of the real Bondurant brothers. The result is a vibrant piece of American pulp bursting with memorable images. “Lawless” lacks the Scorsese gravitas that would make it an Oscar contender, but I think Hardy, Chastain and Pearce all deliver nomination-worthy performances. This is a hell of an entertaining movie, and I give it an A. I’m Richard Roeper and you can get all my reviews at richardroeper.com and on Reelz.

 

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