Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lawless (2012)

Lawless was a random Friday night movie choice. My friend was moving to Delaware and I was going home. We decided to catch up over a movie and a light snack that evening. While Rags suggested Dredd, just the thought of sitting through the movie was enough to make me hastily look up a string of other movies that were playing. We settled on Lawless, only because it said " Based on a True Story".

This American Gangster movie on the Bondurant brothers is based on the book, The Wettest County in the World (2008) by Matt Bondurant, grandson of Jack Bondurant, the youngest of the brothers. Set during the American Prohibition era (1920-33), which imposed a national ban on the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol, the movie is narrated through the eyes of Jack Bondurant (Shia LeBouf) who takes us through the lives of the Bondurant brothers who hold an iron grip selling moonshine in the Franklin County in Virginia. The leader of the pack, Forrest Bondurant (the very hot Tom Hardy) is a man of few words, has a quiet low growl, retaliates with his brass knuckles when it is absolutely necessary, which can instill fear in your heart and is extremely protective of his family, especially the youngest, an infuriatingly timid Jack (Shia LeBouf) who is locked in a constant struggle to shed his greenhorn image and prove his brothers wrong. He tries to find a place for himself in the business by partnering with his best friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan), a genius who makes excellent blends and can pretty much fix anything. Howard Bondurant (Jason Clarke) is a force to reckon with and can use his brute strength when the occasion arises. 

The brothers' monopoly is threatened by the absolutely sadistic, citified Chicago Special Agent, Charlie Rakes, performed fabulously by Guy Pearce, who is out to etch out a percentage of the profit from the bootlegging business. While the rest of the bootleggers give in to Rakes, the Bondurant brothers refuse to cow down. What ensues next is a series of disturbingly violent scenes between the Special Agent and the Brothers. 
Quoting Forrester seems quite appropriate and justifiable as a context to the gore: It is not the violence that sets men apart, but it is the distance he is prepared to go.

In between all the carnage, the movie follows the love lives of Jack who is busy pursuing the preacher's daughter while Forrest quietly loves Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain), the burlesque dancer from Chicago  who seeks shelter under the Bondurants roof and becomes their business manager. I suppose these softer angles in their personal lives gives the human touch to their bloody occupation.

The movie has all the commercial elements that make it work: violence, nudity, the vanquisher and the underdog who finally shines. The ladies have no significant role to play except add some feminine fragrance into the gruff men folk. 

I fell in love with Tom Hardy's apprising of Forrest, a character which beautifully blends his vulnerability, humor and bestiality. He does not have much to say, but when he does, his voice carries through strong and clear masking his British accent. I personally believe he has amazing screen presence; the lighting and body language only enhance his good looks, especially his eyes, which convey a great depth of feelings. Shia LeBouf, who is the central character in the movie was quite a bore and was easily out shadowed by DeHaan and Hardy.  He certainly takes his time to build the nerves of steel and put a couple of bullets into Reeks. Guy Pearce as the psycho agent delivers a power packed performance ensuring the audience hates his character right from the moment he lights up the screen. Too bad, the very talented Gary Oldman (gangster) did not have a larger role to play, but I guess it is understandable.

Given all the brute force the characters deliver, the movie makes you wonder why the brothers did not dispose off the Agent at the earliest, but then I suppose, we will be left without a story. Moreover, what's the fun in letting a loony who encourages murders and rapes die such a quick death. It has to be a well deserved beastly end. The character of Forrester is given an immortal image who survives a vicious throat slit (one of the most scariest scenes) and spray of bullets, but ironically dies of pneumonia two weeks after he falls into a frozen lake. The clothes are well designed to suit the times and make the boys look terribly good. Cinematography was excellent and the sound track was a perfect backdrop. The violence of the era and the business can make you cringe ( i had half a mind to walk out of the theater), but it drives home the basic principle of survival in a brutal era. 

To quote Forrest, We're survivors, we control the fear. And without the fear, we're all as good as dead.

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