3 1/2 Stars
The narrative is seen through the perspective of Jack (Shia LaBeouf), the youngest of the trio and the runt. LaBeouf is very good here in a role that is more subdued than his work in recent years. He seems like a boy in the midst of killers, making his gradual transformation into a murderer all the more effective. Tom Hardy is reminding me more and more of Sean Penn, with his soft spoken delivery and heavy presence on screen. There is a scene at the mid-way point that takes place in a hospital, Hardy is able to convey clearly his emotions in a single glance. He is more expressive with his eyes than some actors are with whole monologues, maybe it was all that practice working behind the mask of BANE in The Dark Knight Rises. The real wild card here is Guy Pearce as Charley Rake, a special deputy who quickly reveals himself to be a well-groomed snake. Pearce chooses to play the character with such reckless abandon it is surprising he doesn’t actually chew the scenery. It’s the kind of memorably creepy depiction of a lunatic that could put Pearce in the Best Supporting Actor race come next Oscar ceremony.
John Hillcoat’s direction doesn’t call attention to itself, yet every scene is handled with solid professionalism. His work is matched by the equally impressive cinematography by Benoît Delhomme and Chris Kennedy’s production design, which both aid in capturing the seedy atmosphere of gin-joints and smoke filled back rooms. Lawless is essentially about compelling characters doing extremely unpleasant things to one another. If you can stomach the violence, this is a must-see. One of the best film of 2012, so far.
Director: John Hillcoat
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce