Lawless (2012)

How lovely it was to go and see a film at the pictures that wasn't a superhero film.

I mean, don't get me wrong; whether it's dark and gritty or fun and colourful, I do enjoy a nice muscular heroic romp now and then – and my word, did that last sentence sound gay.

But still. It recently dawned on me that pretty much everything I leave the house to see these days seems to have been released either by Marvel or DC. That's possibly more a testament to the fact that I don't get out much than it is to the lack of imagination at the box office. But still.

How lovely it was to go and see a film at the pictures that wasn't a superhero film.

Lawless initially proclaims itself to be “based on a true story”. In actuality, it's an adaptation of a novelisation of a true story. As such, it's seeped in romantic myth and outlandish legend. And, seeing as said adaptation was effected by Mr. Nick Cave, it also happens to be dripping with blood, booze and cussing.

Can one drip with cuss? I suppose it depends upon the cuss in question. Some words are wetter than others.

Tom Hardy plays Forrest Bondurant – the oldest of three brothers running a moonshinin' and bootleggin' business out in the sticks.

Having survived a lethal strain of flu and a war that was, for so many others, genocidal; the brothers believe themselves to be immortal.

As the film progresses, it's hinted that they just might be onto something there.

Forrest Bondurant is one of those characters – like Scarface, The Joker or The Goblin King - who may yet become an enduring favourite for an entire generation. He's a speech slurrin' high-talkin' gentleman boozer with a heart of gold. Despite the fact that a lot of people are really quite keen to see him die, I found his life to be quite enviable. He lives with his brothers – with whom he's close and friendly – running a quaint cafĂ©/gas station by day and an exciting booze running business by night.

Plus, his girlfriend is “well fit”.

But this tranquil life on the edge is brought into rude jeopardy with the arrival of Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce, above) – an effete, immaculately dressed yet utterly psychotic deputy from the city. He's been brought into the sticks to enforce them prohibition laws, but he's more than happy to look the other way for pay.

Hence the title of the film. This was a lawless time; in which not even Johnny Law is beyond tarrin' and featherin' a bootlegger who would – about ten years before or after – be considered innocent.

A problem arises when Forest and his brothers refuse to play Rakes's game. Mr. Cave must have had a great time adapting the ensuing standoff. It meant he could paint the screen red with no small amount of his trademark southern-fried ultraviolence.

With the beautiful cinematography; the authentically dusty sets and costumes; the memorable characters and an unexpected yet welcome beating heart of human warmth and humour, there really is rather a lot to love here.

But because I'm a masochist I've been reading the IMDB comments. Of course, there are a few threads screaming the usual “worst film ever” guff. Dip into them and you get inchoate diatribes against the “lazy writing and direction” and the “uninspired performances”.

My initial instinct was to wonder if said people had been watching the same film as me, but then I just sighed with deep resignation.

It seems that people are so used to having their eyes and brains melted by lush CGI splendour that they've forgotten that films don't have to be showy and larger than life to be at all remarkable.

No wonder there are so many superhero films.

No, I don't feel superior. Like I said earlier, I really like superhero films.

But I do wish that wonderful masterpieces like Lawless would stand out only because they're outstanding, and not because they're different to the glut of sequels, remakes and CGI sagas.


  1. What do you mean by flu and war? And based on a true story? I'm reading the Stand at the moment, it sounds like the Stand, but with Al Capone...

  2. Set in 1931, the Bondurant brothers have survived the First World War and the subsequent flu epidemic.

    And yes, it's based on a real life family of moonshine runners! Or, at least, it's based on a novelisation of said brothers as written by one of their grandchildren.