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A Movie Review on Lawless (2012)

Updated on December 25, 2012
Theatrical poster for Lawless (2012)
Theatrical poster for Lawless (2012) | Source

I wasn't too sold on Lawless before seeing it, especially with The Gangster Squad looming on the horizon. With both of them being gangster films, I was especially looking forward to seeing The Gangster Squad much more than Lawless. Although it has a great cast (Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Shia LaBeouf) there was something about the trailer that had me skeptical about it. Now that I have finally seen it, I can say that I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The movie is based on a true story, and follows 3 brothers during the time of prohibition who run their own Moonshine business. When a Special Deputy from the city arrives in town and threatens to ruin their business the Bondurant brothers are forced to fight back against the law.

Lawless is less of a gangster movie, and more of an historical action/drama. giving us a good look into the illegal moonshine business during the times of Prohibition. It's advertised as a gangster film, but doesn't carry the same elements as one. The only real gangster element in the movie is the inclusion of Gary Oldman's Floyd Banner, who only has a few scenes scattered throughout the film. He shows up in the beginning of the movie in an awesome scene where he shoots up a car, and some men, with a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, but then disappears until the middle where he makes another appearance buying Moonshine from one of the brothers. The character is severely underused, and would have served better being a bigger presence throughout the movie. Gary Oldman is a great actor, and I would have loved to see the character fleshed out more in the movie.

What really holds this film together is the family drama element between the three brothers, and the acting by those who stepped into the shoes of these characters. Tom Hardy delivers a great brooding performance as Forrest, the 'leader' of the brothers who comes across as damn near invincible. The only thing I didn't like about his performance is how he mumbled through his lines. I'm not sure if this was just how he was told to deliver his lines, but it stuck out to me. Jessica Chastine plays the love interest of Forrest, Maggie, who arrives in town in the beginning of the film to work the counter at the brother's gas station. Chastine is fantastic, and the tension between her character Maggie and Forrest adds a great element to the film. Jason Clarke as Howard gave another great performance, though he didn't have as big of a role in things as the other two brothers. Shia LaBeouf's Jack, who is the youngest out of the two, isn't part of the brothers Moonshine business, but ends up getting himself involved later on. Shia delivers a spot on performance as the reckless younger brother who wants nothing more than to impress, and gain the approval of, his two older brothers. Guy Pearce as Special Deputy Charlie Rakes delivers a wonderful performance, but his character is a little too over the top for my taste. Rakes is willing to do anything to stop the Bondurant brothers, and Pearce is the perfect person to take on this role.

Screen shot of Howard (Clarke), Jack (LaBeouf), and Forrest (Hardy) in Lawless (2012)
Screen shot of Howard (Clarke), Jack (LaBeouf), and Forrest (Hardy) in Lawless (2012) | Source

What would a film like this be without its action and violence? There aren't many full blow action sequences in this as much as there are scenes of gangster-style violence. The action/violence is both bloody and brutal, delivering some really gruesome scenes throughout. The violence isn't done over the top, or just for the sake of doing it, but feels real and natural to the situations. The shoot-out at the end of the film is amazing, and delivers some great bloody moments. My one problem with the ending to this film is that it drags on a little too long. Yes, I understand that since it's based off a true story they want to leave us knowing what happens to these characters after the fact, but I feel like a few minutes could have been shaved off the end.

Overall I really enjoyed Lawless, as it's a very entertaining historical action/drama. The movie is carried by the performances of Hardy, LaBeouf, and Clarke, who deliver outstanding performances and have great chemistry together. It's a shame they didn't expand the role of Floyd Banner for Gary Oldman. It would have great to see him as a bigger presence throughout the film. Although it's not an actual gangster film like some may think, it's a solid movie that gives you an inside look into the Moonshine business during the times of Prohibition.


Directed by John Hillcoat

Starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, and Gary Oldman

Rated R. Runtime: 115 Minutes


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    • Thefilmguy24 profile image


      5 years ago

      Gangster Squad looks really good. Hopefully it won't disappoint since it has a great cast. I love Sean Penn as the villain and I have high hopes that he won't disappoint since he is such a great actor.

    • Richard Perazzo profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Perazzo 

      5 years ago from Shirley, NY

      Thank you! The fact that it was kind of advertised as a gangster flick, but actually isn't was somewhat disappointing, but it was still a very entertaining flick. I can't wait for Gangster Squad though. That looks like it will be awesome!

    • Thefilmguy24 profile image


      5 years ago

      Great article. I always enjoy reading you reviews and articles. I just watched this film last night and I thought it wasn't too bad. I as well was hoping this might be a little more of a gangster film than it turned out to be, but it was still a pretty good movie. I thought that Shia LaBeouf did a good job as Jack. But I really wanted to see more of Gary Oldman as Floyd Banner since I thought his character was way underdeveloped and was only in it for a really short amount of time. Other than that, I thought the movie was good. Great review and voted up.


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