By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
The Bondurant brothers Jack, Forrest, and Howard run a service station in Franklin County, Virginia. In the 1920’s the station served as a front for their burgeoning bootlegging business, for which they made a handsome profit. Howard and Forrest are well known in their community as quiet and friendly folks, who will absolutely kick your ass if you mess with them. Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) on the other hand is a bit of a black sheep, more skilled at taking beatings than dishing out. One day Prohibition agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) comes to town, charged with cleaning the place up. Rakes seems less interested in Alcohol and more in graft, proceeding to work with the District Attorney to bilk the local bootleggers out of bribe money. Of all the bootleggers in Franklin County, only the Bondurants resist. Rakes declares war with the Bondurants, who are all too happy to oblige.
With results that you’d expect
Filmmaker John Hillcoat and Screenwriter Nick Cave have collaborated before numerous times, and Lawless may be the most accessible film they’ve made to date. (That isn’t saying much, since this film features graphic throat slicing, and face stomping.) The action scenes are short, violent, and unflinching. But what makes the film work most effectively is the writing. Cave’s script imbues in his characters a sense that I can only describe as “stylized gothic redneck”. Actor Guy Pearce gives the performance of his career as Charlie Rakes, perhaps the scariest movie villian since No Country for Old Men gave us Anton Chigurh. Rakes’ insane obsession with the Bondurant brothers is fascinating, and if his motives are never explained. Pearce makes it work through sheer force of will.
Here he is, “helping” one of the film’s characters…
The film’s biggest flaw is in the final act, which while still fascinating, also stretches credibility. Sure, the film is based on a true story, and to be fair, I haven’t seen anything saying this didn’t happen. But I’m pretty sure it would have been reported pretty widely. The film does overcome this flaw to a great extent by exploring the tension between reality of a situation and the legend that develops as a result. But I am weary of films claiming to be “true stories” while essentially making everything up as it goes along.
Just short of an instant classic. This one might take some digesting to work out completely.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for the body-count
Take a Drink: anytime Forrest responds with a wordless grunt
Drink a Shot: when someone swigs moonshine