Speak softly and carry a big ass pair of brass knuckles

5 09 2012

By Kleinz 57

Prohibition is in full swing in Franklin County, and the Bondurants are both local legends and some of Virginia’s finest moonshiners. Granted, much of that success has come from sweetening the cheeks of local law enforcement with corn whiskey bribes to look the other way. When the low-brimmed, mumbling Tom Hardy and his strongarming twit brother Jason Clarke refuse a district attorney’s demands for more of their profits, trouble starts a brewin’ faster than a bell clapper in a goose’s ass. Shia LaBeouf, the youngest and most impressionable Bondurant upstart, picks THE WORST timing to throw his hat in the family business, nevermind that the family business produces something between rubbing alcohol and cat piss. Shame that egg-sucking district attorney hires Guy Pearce to clean out Franklin Co.’s moonshining operations fer good, and I’d stop typin’ like this but dag nabbit if it ain’t fun punchin keys in the ‘ole stereahtyp’cal drawl that there.

Was August a bad month for movies? Total Retread. Expendables 2. The Bourne Redundancy. The Apparition? I didn’t even go for the ParaNorman Kool-Aid. Not to mention box office projections ha — SWEET CHRIST WHAT IS THAT?!?!

So August was a bad month for movies. Maybe that’s why Lawless isn’t so much a breath o’ fresh air as it is a nutshot reminder that movies be gettin’ good again. A lot of the fun comes courtesy of Hardy’s Forrest Bondurant, continuing the actor’s summer streak of roles in which you can’t understand what in God’s name he’s saying. But it doesn’t matter who he is. What matters is his plaaaaaaan. Sorry. Hardy garbles like some bizarre cross between Buffalo Bill and Bill Erwin’s octogenarian stick-in-the-mud from Home Alone.  LaBeouf also impresses, given that his range ventures outside the confines of ‘BUMBLEBAAAAY!’ and ‘OPTIMUUUUUS!’ No, this Shia is more in keeping with his nuanced performace in Even Stevens, because that was a solid show and Ren was pretty hot. And everything is nice to look at; Benoit Delhomme’s photography is crisp and refreshing, often placing the camera in unexpected places or panning across a conversation’s periphery.

Guy Pearce’s eyebrows are a problem, though. Or, their lack thereof. With his infinite tics and obsessive compulsions, his Special Agent caricature is more like Monk’s evil twin brother. For some reason, Gary Oldman plays a typical gangster character. And then he disappears. Yup. Not to mention, every woman has nothing to do in Lawless, unless you’re Jessica Chastain and we’re including Tom Hardy. Heeeeey! Her rust-haired strumpet never really gets a defined purpose, and the murky details of her backstory aren’t helped by a similarly confusing incident halfway through. On the other hand, boobs. It’s unclear how much Nick Cave altered in his adaptation of The Wettest County in the World but the shifts from mild humor to throat slittings and castration are jarring, and in its final shoot-out, certain characterizations don’t make a whole lot of sense. When much of your screen time is spent as a naive, brash idiot and learning the consequences of acting like a naive, brash idiot, maybe you don’t resolve that by continuing to indulge in that sort of behavior. For like the fourth time.

Nevertheless, Lawless is an exciting takedown of Southern myth-making, a violent affront to those idiots in Dallas and Birmingham who convince themselves their states are separate from the rest of the rural cesspool. ‘Shut up, you toothless hicks,’ Lawless might mumble in return. ‘Shut right the hell up.’

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