Lawless (John Hillcoat, 2012)

“It is not the violence that sets men apart. It is the distance he is prepared to go.”

Lawless is not a great film. In fact it takes about thirty minutes for the film to hit its stride, shortly after Forrest (Tom Hardy) recites the above quote, to his brother Jack (Shia LaBeouf) and a change in the pace of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score.

The story isn’t much new, and the editing is strange at times. It confuses perspective, rather than assisting it, giving it depth. It’s slow and it’s stagnating, which doesn’t quite work. I was missing the speed of Boardwalk Empire, which itself went so quickly at times it was hard to follow. Yet that was part of the point of Boardwalk Empire, and the show’s speed assisted it. Here, it’s confusing anyway.

A voiceover in the second half, that he’d heard there were problems in the country but was having the time of his life, is accompanied by a shot of homeless families waiting by the side of the highway, a billboard in the background declaring “highest standard of living”. It’s the failure of the American Dream motif, shoved right up in our faces. Perhaps it’s meant to be funny. In fact, maybe the whole selection of cliches are meant to be humorous, but the film doesn’t own its humour. It’s obvious, it’s clunky, it’s ludicrous. There’s a strange imbalance of restrained and saturated realism.

Then there’s the introduction to the final sequence where all the main men are “preparing” themselves. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a man preparing for battle on screen but it would certainly be more times than I’ve seen a woman…putting on makeup, for example. Speaking of, that didn’t even happen here, although Mia Wasikowska did change into a new dress, and Jessica Chastain showed her collarbone.


There’s a quite nice moment, after Forrest has had his throat slit. He falls and stares, rigid, up at the moon, which compares to the headlights of Maggie’s car as she drives back to save him. It’s nice; nothing special.

Jessica Chastain is probably the only thing worth seeing this for, but maybe see something which she’s actually *in* more of instead.


About cinemelo

I love to write about film and comment on culture. Hopefully providing insight and interesting thoughts for fellow cultural itinerants.
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