By Kenna Trent
Whether it is the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s or Honey Boo Boo, it seems we have become obsessed with the charms of the South, or the stupidity depending on how you look at it.
Caught up in this trend, perhaps more legitimately than others, is the gangster drama Lawless. Based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers as written by their descendant, Matt Bondurant, Lawless is a gritty look at Prohibition-era crime.
In the hills of Franklin County, Virginia, where nearly everyone is running a moonshine still, Forrest, Howard and Jack Bondurant (Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, and Shia LaBeouf respectively) are making successful moonshine runs to almost everybody in the county, including the local authorities. In the spirit of stopping this illegal sale of alcohol, the district attorney calls in special agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) to bring these moonshiners to their knees. A brutal and personal battle between a bunch of backwoods gangsters and a dishonest man of the law follows.
First things first, if you walk into the theater to see Lawless expecting a pleasant little romp about jovial moonshiners, you will be rudely awakened after the first couple of hits. The violence is true to the genre and not in the business of pulling punches.
Don’t let that run you off, though. Beautiful Georgia scenery, a forbidden romance, an Americana soundtrack and a few laughable moments contrast the ruthless violence. It’s an interesting mix of many different elements and could hold something for everyone.
My only doubts are in the telling of a story about country folks. Lawless definitely toes the line between tasteful and tasteless at some moments and is sure to stir up some conversation about exploiting the stereotype. While some of the accents seem unnatural to the actors, they aren’t difficult to understand or uncomfortable to watch.
Overall, the actors did a fantastic job of not overdoing their characters. Even Shia LaBeouf, who tends to be a little too excited, found his rhythm in the character and pulled through one of his better performances. It might even be to their benefit no one really stuck out as outstanding in this cast. If any one character were to outshine another it would not have worked for the understated nature of the story as a whole.
Second at the box office this opening weekend, the fate of Lawless is uncertain. It’s noticeable, memorable but only possibly worth watching.