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home : community : features May 4, 2016

9/7/2012 6:00:00 AM
A gangster film with a small town feel
'Lawless' in theaters now

Sarah Hirsch
Features editor

By the end of this film, you forget that it’s based on a true story. 

At least, I did. 

“Lawless” is a blend of two unlikely genres – gangster and western – and it caught me by surprise. 

Not seeing the movie trailer, not knowing the main actors/actresses and not having any idea what the basic plot of the story clearly played a part in my surprise, but “Lawless” isn’t “The Godfather” – it’s a gangster movie with a small-town feel. 

You see the close relationships between not only the brothers, but also the rest of the town. 

The film was inspired by “The Wettest County in the World,” a novel telling the true-life tales of the Bondurant brothers and their moonshine business in Franklin County, Va. The operation is led by Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy); brother Howard (Jason Clarke) is the muscle of the group with a short temper; and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) is the younger brother who has a lot to learn. 

Several years into Prohibition, the monopolized bootlegging operation is threatened by Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), a government official in bed with the Chicago Mob. However, the Bondurant brothers are not ones to be pushed around. 

Weaved into the main gangster plot is some romance. The story introduces a new mysterious woman who moves to town (Jessica Chastain) and a minister’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska). Though the roles in the film are minor, they have major impacts on the lives of Forrest and Jack. 

The acting in this film movie is outstanding – Oscar nomination material. Hardy captures the toughness that is Forrest, the supposedly invincible brother. Though he doesn’t have an extensive amount of dialogue, his facial expressions say it all. And it must be noted that Pearce as the cold-hearted Special Deputy and LaBeouf as Jack are captivating. 

“Lawless” dissects complex themes of loyalty, brotherhood and violence. Though the violence can be difficult to watch at times, the reason behind the brutality is there. “Lawless” treats violence similar to how HBO’s “The Soprano’s” does – a means for survival. 

What struck me about this movie is the fact that we live in the Northwoods – an area riddled with the history of larger-than-life Prohibition era gangsters. Looking at the bootlegging industry at this smaller scale was refreshing because that’s how it was done outside the hands of infamous gangsters like Al Capone. 

“Lawless” is rated R for the violence, language and some sexuality/nudity, and is being shown at the Lakeland Cinema in Woodruff.

Sarah Hirsch may be reached at shirsch@lakelandtimes.com.

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