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Lawless

Year: 2012
Production Co: Benaroya Pictures
Director: John Hillcoat
Writer: Nick Cave
Cast: Tom Hardy, Shia LeBeouf, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Gary Oldman, Noah Taylor

This movie looked like it would have a high mark of quality. Maybe it was the Australian origins of the creative team behind it but it made me expect something on a par with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

It's not that I was disappointed, it just came off as dull and lifeless as the landscape, costuming and everything else about the 1930s country Midwest. It reminded me of a description I once heard about war – long bouts of lethargy and inactivity and the occasional – often surprising – bout of violence.

I certainly didn't expect a bullet-spraying early John Woo flick, but nothing that happened to – or between – the characters was very interesting. A redhead (Chastain) blows in with no explanation or reason to be there except to shag one of the heroes. The strong, silent hero (Hardy) seems to sleep through much of the movie – and I didn't buy his cotton-pickin' accent for a minute.

And the villain was so moustache-twirlingly campy – as Guy Pearce is often enough to make me wonder if his A-list status is deserved – it was like Dastardly Dan had just stepped in from The Wacky Races.

Labeouf and Wasikowska are good, as is their relationship, but the movie doesn't know whether to focus on them or not.

It's the prohibition era and three brothers cook hooch out in their backwoods distillery, much like everyone else around. The local cops are happy to turn a blind eye to the cottage industry as long as nobody calls too much attention to things, but when a fearsome federal agent is called in to bust up the illegal stills in town, the three criminal-heroes draw a line in the sand and won't be moved.

The subplot-that's-also-kind-of-the-main-plot is the youngest brother, who's constantly shut out and not trusted by his older siblings, but who goes behind their back and forges an alliance with a big time town gangster to prove himself.

When he does so there doesn't seem to be any consequences from his brothers apart from a heavy lidded stare from Hardy, one of many strands of plot and characterisation that are dropped and forgotten.

It's not quite boring, and guys will appreciate finally seeing the luscious Jessica Chastain naked (though why she'd want to get into bed with a mumbling dolt in overalls is a mystery – especially when he says in his hillbilly drawl 'what are you doin'?'), but I thought it would leave much more impact than it did.

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