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Lawless

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It’s been three years since Public Enemies (2009) and Johnny Depps excellent turn as legendary criminal John Dillinger, but at last it seems that the period crime film is making a return. First with Lawless and then eventually with Gangster squad which is currently being held in limbo thanks to the nutcase who shot up the Dark Knight Rises premier earlier this year. (Gangster Squad you see features a shoot out in a cinema as its climax, just another reason to hate that douche)

Lawless is the tale of the Bondurants, three bootlegging brothers who operated out of Franklin County Virginia during prohibition, their budding romances well at least for two of the brothers, And their run-ins with the law. Or more accurately with a corrupt special deputy who tries to get them to pay most of their earnings over to him. After having enjoyed years of being able to operate unmolested they take exception to this and to the men from the city turning up to oppress their entrepreneurial enterprise. And its this central theme that makes me like Lawless so much. I hate authority, and I hate it when authority tries to tell me what to do. Lawless is about the small fish standing up and fighting back against authority, no matter what happens to the Bondurants they pick themselves up and  keep on going, and eventually win out over the men from the city. Nothing makes me happier.

About the only downside to lawless is the fact that Shia leBouf features quite prominently, but he’s playing a young cocksure kid who keeps causing trouble for his brothers, which is pretty much the role he always plays in one form or another. And as he’s had a lot of practise he pulls it off with aplomb.

Lebouf aside  the rest of the cast put in some magnificent performances; especially Guy Peirce who gives us  a master class in villainy, as the dandified Charles Rakes, an amoral tittering monster, and someone you will have no difficulty hating.  Also of note is Tom Hardy as the guttural Forrest Bondurant who manages to convey entire conversations in short grunts, which for me was an inspired piece of characterisation. He plays the role like a large slumbering beast. He only speaks when needed and only acts; usually in great flurries of violence, when it’s absolutely necessary. And this film is violent, not action film violent but realistically violent. There are moments while beatings are being dealt that I flinched. These men operated in a dangerous industry and the brutality of their world is clearly displayed here, its part of who they are and an important part of understanding who the characters are, but more importantly I feel as though it’s never glorified violence.

Overall Lawless isn’t perfect. It features it’s fair share of clichés, and little niggling elements that some may not like, an obviously sacrificial character, hooker with a heart etc. But I personally can’t fault it. It’s been a while since I’ve really enjoyed a good crime film, and Lawless has filled a gap for me that I didn’t realise was there until something this good turned up.

If you’re not interested in watching the antics of a couple of moonshining good oldboys, but still want some period crime, then give The Untouchables (1987) a go instead. See what was going on in the cities while the Bondurants and their ilk were keeping America wet.

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