LaBeouf moonshines in ‘Lawless’
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 00:09
“Lawless” is one of those films that at its core works fairly well. However, when examined more on the surface, specifically concerning what we see and hear, it has several issues. The question is whether or not those issues are enough to sink the film as a whole.
“Lawless” tells the story of the Bondurant family, a group of brothers who run a bootlegging business during the Prohibition Era. They consist of the gruff and intimidating Forrest, played very well by Tom Hardy, the loose cannon Howard, played by Jason Clarke, and the gofer, Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf.
LaBeouf’s reputation has plummeted over the last few years, but he proves here that he can act. He fits into his roles naturally, and I can always take his characters seriously. Jack is the central character of the film, trying to prove his worth to his less-than-empathetic brothers. His arc develops well, and he is interesting and relatable enough to be the lead.
Other characters includes Forrest’s girlfriend, Maggie, played by Jessica Chastain, who I still feel, despite playing a strong role in the plot, was not given enough to do. Jack’s close friend Cricket is played by Dane Dehaan, who is definitely an actor to watch. There is also the villain, a lawman named Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce. I just do not know what to make of him. His performance is very strong, and his deadpan manor is certainly creepy, which makes the character memorable. But his physical appearance and demeanor are such a contrast to the rest of the cast that he comes off as artificial and cartoony.
The story of “Lawless” is fairly straightforward. The Bondurants try to run their Moonshine business and have to deal with the shady world of organized crime and the police trying to shut them down. The film moves at a strenuous pace, and you invest enough in the characters so that it never becomes boring. Action scenes are frequent, and “Lawless” doesn’t hold back when it comes to violence. When combined with the strong gravity of the cast, the violence creates several suspenseful and even horrifying moments. However, “Lawless” manages to walk a fine line between grim and lively, and it makes for an entertaining experience.
The primary problem with “Lawless” is how it is cut. It does not always display what it should, and it sometimes shows the unnecessary. Sometimes scenes end 30 seconds too early or begin several seconds too late. There is a montage midway through the film that contains several moments that deserved a full scene. This is especially clear after it is revisited and revealed to be a plot point. There are also a few too many scenes of not much happening and music playing in the background. “Lawless” has a decent soundtrack, but it relies on it far too much. The secondary cast is large, and it can be difficult to tell who is who. The film captures the era and location well, but did they have to make everybody wear the same beige clothing? At times, characters seem to completely drop out of the story only to re-enter abruptly an hour later. As a whole, it feels sloppy and rushed.
I think one of the reasons why these problems are so noticeable is “Lawless” suffers from being ordinary. It does not break new ground or take any risks, which takes away from the engagement. The film is often good, but it is never better than good.
I am faced with one simple and one difficult question. The simple one is: Should you see “Lawless”? Yes, you should. Should you pay upwards of ten dollars to see “Lawless”? It is a close call but I am going to say no. There is nothing here that has not been done better elsewhere, which you can watch for free. But five months down the road, when perusing Netflix or Red Box, give “Lawless” a look. It deserves at least that.