Film: Lawless has ingredients for success

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September 7th, 2012

Omaha, NE – Mashing together film noir and a western sounds like a good time, but does it hang together? From the Movieha podcast, Ryan Syrek and Matt Lockwood take a look Lawless.

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Ryan: I love moonshine as much as the next guy.

Matt: Uh, I once rode the white lightning for 72 hours straight until I went blind for a month.

Lawless stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain.

Ryan: I love moonshine almost as much as the next guy. Just about the only way to make me less enthusiastic about a moonshine movie is to cast Shia LaBeouf as the star.

Matt: Shia LaBeouf stars in Lawless, a moonshine movie that follows a real life trio of bad boy brothers who made and sold gut-rot liquor during prohibition. Tom Hardy is the eldest brother and the leader of the pack. He doesn’t say much, sometimes even grunting instead of talking, but he can murder people in the face at the drop of a hat.

Ryan: LaBeouf plays the runt of the litter, and as the youngest, he wants in on the family business. But when an eyebrowless dandy played by Guy Pearce shows up as a special deputy in the small town, he demands a cut of the action or he’ll shut the boys operation down. This, of course, leads to a good old war with good old boys, with the lovely Jessica Chastain stuck right in the middle.

Matt: The take home message is that the movie is fun. Sure, it’s flawed, it spends too much time on the least interesting character, played by Mr. Boof, and neglects awesome potential subplots like the one featuring Gary Oldman as a tommy gun toting gangster. But still, it’s basically a good time.

Ryan: I can’t argue, but I can wish for a bit more. Director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave, yes the creepy singer Nick Cave, previously put forth The Proposition, which while super disturbing was really damn good. So it’s kind of a bummer that Lawless feels so slight. All of the ingredients needed for something truly classic and great were here: Antihero Americans, Jessica Chastain, a troubled town with great characters, Jessica Chastain. But something just doesn’t come together.

Matt: I agree that spending more time on Hardy’s character would have been best, as would choosing to skimp on side stories like The Boof’s weird amish love interest. But it had enough quality moments to keep me happy.

Ryan: Yeah, I suppose it’s kind of like moonshine itself. You would prefer something that tastes better and is a bit classier, but this time of year, you’ll take any film entertainment that gets the job done. Lawless is basically cinematic corn whiskey, with somewhat lower chance of permanent blindness.

Editorial note: The Movieha podcast is produced in partnership with The Reader and is available at thereader.com.

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