It would be wonderful to report that director John Hillcoat and screenwriter-musician Nick Cave’s re-teaming for Lawless is as good as their previous effort, The Proposition. Sadly, it’s not so.
Whereas The Proposition was an effective and novel treatise, set in the colonial Australian outback, on the nature of civilization and savagery, Lawless is just like every other Prohibition story ever told.
It has its moments, as when Guy Pearce’s contemptible enforcer, Special Agent Charlie Rakes, beats the hell out of Shia LaBeouf’s meek Jack with a double-barrel shotgun, or when Tom Hardy’s Forrest has his throat cut, literally, from ear to ear (and that’s not even a spoiler).
Mostly there’s serious déjà vu. Tough brother? Check. Crazy brother? Check. Aforementioned meek brother? Check. Women who love them for no good reason? You bet.
Even Gary Oldman can’t breathe much life into Lawless, but that’s because he appears and then disappears so quickly that it’s almost as if he’s not in the movie. Any film that’s as all over the place as this—is it a drama or love story or brothers’ story or what?—reeks of a troubled production history, which Lawless has.
At least the performances are solid, as is Cave’s music.
UA DeVargas, R, 114 min.