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Film Editorial

lawless2.jpg Lawless

Adapted by Nick Cave from Matt Bondurant’s historical novel ‘The Wettest County in the World’ this prohibition-era gangster film looks good but feels frustratingly inert. The story focuses on three brothers who make their living selling moonshine in Depression-racked rural Virginia, the seemingly indestructible strong Forrest (Hardy), callow younger brother Jack (LaBeouf) and, er, the other one Howard (Clarke). Initially the brothers have the run of the town thanks to grateful locals and compliant police, until the arrival of the ruthless Special Agent Charles Rakes (Pearce). Visually the film is very impressive, the sepia-tinted and earthy tones imbuing the film with a vivid sense of time and place. Plaudits to the casting director too, who populates the town with a memorable collection of ugbugs. Of the major characters, it is oddly the much maligned LaBeouf who makes the best impression, his character Jack’s cocky manner never quite concealing the man-child inside. Hardy’s Forrest is more problematic, his mumbling man-mountain almost a parody of the strong silent type. Chastain as his stripper girlfriend is equally undeveloped (no pun intended). Most damagingly the picture lacks a sense of narrative drive, meandering from ultraviolent incident to incident, and only really engaging when Pearce is on screen, his deranged, dandyish Rakes a psychotic variant on his role as Lt. Exley in ‘L.A Confidential’. The Peckinpah-style conclusion is almost comically overdone, and the mythical, biblical feel that permeates Cave’s songs fails to translate to the big screen, most noticeably in an epilogue which reaches for the elegiac but feels a bit silly.