Violence seems more acceptable when viewed from the past. In “Lawless” there is plenty of it taking place in Franklin, Virginia during prohibition. This film is based on true events of bootlegging in Depression times.
The moonshine stills of the Bondurant brothers (Forrest/Tom Hardy, Howard/Jason Clarke, Jack/Shia LaBeoruf) produce the best pure alcohol for speakeasies and gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman). Like their competitors’ stills, they are hidden in the wooded hills. Forrest is in charge, defending his territory with brass knuckles, and believes himself invincible, which certainly seems true after the last shoot-out. Howard is the irresponsible, undependable one; and Jack is the youngest, most ambitious, and unviolent brother with his eyes on a preacher’s daughter, Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska). The brothers also run a bar on their property, and one day a blond Chicago woman, Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain), wanting a quiet country life, walks in and offers to help out.
The county sheriff and deputies are all behind the Bondurant enterprise and eagerly accept bottles of their quality hooch. Then along comes a nasty, corrupt state deputy, Charles Rakes (Guy Pearce), who wants a piece of the action in the form of a percentage of profits from every moonshiner. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll beat up or kill anyone who doesn’t conform. Forrest, of course, refuses to comply and bad things start happening. When Jack’s friend and distillery cohort, Cricket Pate (Dane DeHaan), is murdered by Rakes, vengeance changes him.
“Lawless” is well-acted, well-written, and well-directed. We were intrigued by the trailers and expected what we got – a good movie, albeit a violent one. History is what it was; too bad the present hasn’t changed for the better.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.