Directed by John Hillcoat, previously associated with the Australian Western The Proposition and the desolate apocalypse drama The Road, Lawless is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant’s family in his novel “The Wettest County in the World,” the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation’s most notorious crime wave. The film stars Tom Hardy as Forrest Bondurant the leader of the three Bondurant brothers; a bootlegging gang threatened by a new deputy and other authorities who want a cut of the profits.
Gary Oldman is convincing (albeit briefly) as a city gangster whose illicit empire is spreading onwards toward Franklin County, Virginia, where the Bondurant’s are celebrated local legends.
The coming of the malicious marshal, Charlie Rakes, played by Guy Pearce, ignites the war of attrition that escalates throughout. Rakes, with has his hair slicked back is enchantingly sinister and evil, looking not unlike Hitler. Pearce as Rakes is a complex individual, a dandy presence in rough-neck country, hounded by fury, with no friends. Ultimately Rakes gets what he deserves!
Nick Cave (who also co-wrote the script) delivers a beautifully grim yet rousing score, Benoit Delhomme’s epic cinematography emphases the harsh splendour of Appalachia.
Lawless is a film that skilfully fuses the concepts of the urban gangster and the rural western with considerable style. Lawless succeeds in integrating both lyrical and ultra-violent, with a couple of lingering romances that ultimately provide some relief from the frequently bloody episodes.
There is blood and there is whisky and above all mortality. The Bondurants are survivors; Forrest (Tom Hardy) possesses seemingly supernatural strength whereby he repeatedly defies death. The warm but dark family dynamic of the Bondurant family remains fascinating and engaging. They remain a law unto themselves, people you wouldn’t want to mess with, a myth resonating throughout history.
Lawless is a film our Grandfathers stories could be.
Lawless is showing at City Screen until Monday 17 September – for times click here.