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Lawless (2012)

tomatometer

67

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 201
Fresh: 135 | Rotten: 66

Grim, bloody, and utterly flawed, Lawless doesn't quite achieve the epic status it strains for, but it's too beautifully filmed and powerfully acted to dismiss.

53

Average Rating: 6.4/10
Critic Reviews: 43
Fresh: 23 | Rotten: 20

Grim, bloody, and utterly flawed, Lawless doesn't quite achieve the epic status it strains for, but it's too beautifully filmed and powerfully acted to dismiss.

audience

75

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 105,133

My Rating

Movie Info

Lawless is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. In this epic gangster tale, inspired by true-life tales of author Matt Bondurant's family in his novel "The Wettest County in the World", the loyalty of three brothers is put to the test against the backdrop of the nation's most notorious crime wave. -- (C) Weinstein

R,

Drama

Nov 27, 2012

$37.4M

The Weinstein Company - Official Site External Icon

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Latest News on Lawless

August 30, 2012:
Critics Consensus: Lawless Is Violent and Atmospheric
This week at the movies, we've got bootlegging brothers (Lawless, starring Shia LaBeouf and Tom...

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All Critics (201) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (135) | Rotten (66) | DVD (4)

It's slight and casual to the point of laziness, but it's straight fun, done with knowledge and a laconic pleasure. You could do far worse.

June 14, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The center of narrative gravity is hard to locate; for whom are we rooting, and does anything really ripple outward from this nasty local fight?

September 3, 2012 Full Review Source: New Yorker | Comments (15)
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Fans of The Proposition will have to settle for sublimely evil performances by Gary Oldman (as a murderous rival) and Guy Pearce (as a government agent) and a large quotient of gut-wrenching violence.

August 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With a dynamite cast, an iconic screenwriter in rocker Nick Cave and an Aussie director in John Hillcoat, you assume a new classic. What you get is an ambitious try.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Rolling Stone | Comments (9)
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You can sense the filth, and smell the rust, and feel the ingrained poverty that might well convince a family of survivors (of World War I and the Spanish flu) to make their fortune selling moonshine to their neighbors.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There's something at the movie's heart that remains flimsy and inauthentic, a kid in his older brother's ill-fitting shoes.

August 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Slate | Comment (1)
Slate
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Hillcoat makes a foray into Virginia's Prohibition-era moonshine country. But the adaptation (by Hillcoat compadre Nick Cave) is a hokey piece of pop history that wearyingly insists upon its own mythos like a comic-book blockbuster.

July 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

This fact-based drama succeeds because of its great cast and its strong story of loyalty and brotherhood.

June 30, 2013 Full Review Source: Big Hollywood
Big Hollywood

The movie is smart and focused on what it's trying to be.

June 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin
Deadspin

Hillcoat exhausts every gangster cliché he can cram into a would-be epic distilling hooch, cooch and putsch into a diluted Scorsese mash.

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

If only LAWLESS weren't such a superficial endeavor, these parts would add up to a very entertaining whole. As is, the movie is fun while it lasts but forgettable soon after.

April 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Badass Digest
Badass Digest

A pumped-up, Hollywood-flavoured neo-Gothic Western delivering knockout performances and raw, corporeal thrills.

March 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Film4

An impressive Aussie line-up shines in this tale of Prohibition-era bootleggers.

March 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

Lawless features a unique villain and several great supporting actors, but none of them are able to rise above what is pretty standard crime movie material with nothing really new added to the mix.

December 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Scene-Stealers.com
Scene-Stealers.com

Lawless is a compellingly nutty and uneven gangster film.

November 28, 2012 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

fairly entertaining

November 11, 2012 Full Review Source: Windy City Times
Windy City Times

Appropriately solemn and violent, yet strangely lifeless. I imagine a better film was lost in the editing room, and will hopefully be found on Blu-ray.

November 5, 2012
Projection Booth

Tale of bootleggers has genre kick

October 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Every time things heat up, the film down-shifts just long enough to keep you from getting too engaged in the characters, some of whom disappear for reels before popping up again.

October 19, 2012 Full Review Source: 3AW

Just as he did in his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, Hillcoat creates a very specific and unnerving sense of place in Lawless.

October 19, 2012 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

...[Hillcoat] has an ability to capture violence in a way that breaks through a century of cinematic desensitisation - when someone gets hurt in a John Hillcoat film you feel it.

October 15, 2012 Full Review Source: The Aristocrat
The Aristocrat

The strong narrative will keep you interested. The graphic depiction of the violence also gives Lawless a heavy dose of realism.

October 15, 2012 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

Director John Hillcoat's terrifically acted prohibition era thriller, inspired by the real-life story of the Bondurant brothers, shows how the American dream starting to go wrong - before it even existed.

October 15, 2012 Full Review Source: Crikey

Don't expect to be carried along by big action and cliched dialogue, Lawless expects you to do some of the work yourself by immersing yourself in this richly textured world.

October 12, 2012 Full Review Source: The Mercury
The Mercury

The film as a whole is no classic. Between sporadic bursts of very intense violence, there are often drifty, drowsy scenes that struggle to justify their relevance.

October 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Herald Sun (Australia)

Audience Reviews for Lawless

Three brothers in the bootlegging business during the prohibition era refuse to bow to the will of Chicago gangsters and provoke a war between their backwoods community and big city organised crime. John Hillcoat reunites with scriptwriter Nick Cave who collaborated on the atmospheric and characterful The Proposition for this old school gangster drama which unfortunately has neither of those qualities. Despite a promising cast, Lawless is a rather unengaging affair that's a little too admiring of some pretty unpleasant violence perpetrated by a singularly unlikeable bunch of characters. Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke are little more than a pair of mumbling thugs, Guy Pearce's gun toting dandy is little more than a caricature and Shia Lebeouf once again channels his simpering frat-boy persona and fails to conjure any kind of charisma or chemistry whatsoever. The film is attractive to look at and the screen ignites during Gary Oldman's all-too brief appearances but the editing is choppy and the characterisation unappealing and unconvincing. Ultimately Lawless has none of the weight or moral message of a serious drama, nor the excitement or sense of fun of an action film making for an uninvolving tale of a trio of "heroes" it's very difficult to care about.
July 2, 2014
garyX
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

A film about redneck moonshine bootleggers, well yeehaw!. Apparently this is an adaptation of a book which recounts true events from 1931 in the USA. The story is actually based on the author's real family from around this era, he seems to be proud of his relations criminal activities then. Well its based on fact so it makes the film more interesting.

Visually this film looks the business, its gritty, violent and thoroughly well made from top to bottom. I love how everybody looks in their costumes, this period in US history was a smart time and on film it always looks good.

The main issue with this film is thus, clearly its aiming for epic Oscar status, that's fine but its not good enough. The reason being, in my opinion, the creators can't decide what they want this film to be. Do they want an epic grand scale tour de force a' la 'The Godfather' or do they want a graphic novel style kick ass flick a' la 'Last Man Standing' or 'The Untouchables'?.

The film starts brilliantly, with a good dust up from Hardy showing his position within the film and then the coup de grace. Oldman strolls out into the middle of a dusty dirt street and proceeds to tommy gun an oncoming old Ford jalopy to pieces. This one sequence is over quickly but its overly awesome and really gets you in the mood for an ass kicking period flick.

After this great kick off the film tends to lull for much of the run time with sparse bits of violence. The whole thing is lost in limbo between wanting epic Oscar status or violent kick ass graphic novel type status. The issue being the film achieves neither but hangs somewhere in between like a lost tourist.

The other shame is the fact the two best characters and actors aren't involved enough. Oldman is hyper as usual and just needs more screen time here, its as simple as that (although his character does remind me of Chris Walken's character of 'Hickey' in 'Last Man Standing') .

Whilst the best character by far is Pearce as the slimy nasty dastardly 'Rakes'. A kind of polar opposite to Elliot Ness, Ness was a crusading good cop while 'Rakes' is a crusading bad cop. He's only doing his job and upholding the law but in a really bent way hehe.

Both these guys NEEDED more screen time as they both rocked ass and looked damn good doing it. Alas we're stuck with lots of the dreadful Labeouf (how does this guy get work!!?) and the very much overrated Hardy who yet again mumbles his way through this film also. This guy really isn't much of an actor, sorry to all you Nolan fanboys out there, tis the reality.

Despite the two guys I've mentioned most of the characters aren't exactly original, there is nothing new on offer here from this era, standard fair. The violence is harsh thundering and cool but admittedly cliched for this type of film, the thing is that's the best thing about the film.
Without much of the violence this would be a poor epic wannabe, with the violence its good fun but not as good as 'Last Man Standing' or 'Untouchables'.

To be frank the plot is highly basic and doesn't really deserve a film made about it. That said I can't deny that it looks lush and the brutal glorification of prohibition-era Virginia violence is too good to miss.

Hands up who wants to see Oldman smash some hood across the head with a big metal shovel in a fit of rage?, yeah that's what I thought, of course you do.
June 24, 2014
phubbs1

Super Reviewer

Lawless is amazingly well-acted and shot, while its story seems lacking. It is dark and violent and entertaining. Even more impressive is the fact that Lawless recognizes that it is in the end nothing but a popcorn flick. Many other movies of this sort will try to salvage themselves in the final acts, but Lawless dies gracefully, never taking itself too seriously. This movie is the best kind of eye-candy out there. That being said, Lawless is still just eye-candy
August 7, 2013
Nikhil N.
Nikhil Nandu

Super Reviewer

A great film but I'd be lying if I'd say that I wasn't expecting more from director John Hillcoat. It's a great film though, I thought it was going to be greater than the sum of its parts but it wasn't, everyone pulled their weight and added their bit to the overall production. The direction wasn't consistent though. Towards the middle it didn't look like anything special but then in other certain scenes, many unimportant ones, it was stunningly beautiful. Minor niggles on my part probably but only because The Proposition and The Road are two awesome films to follow up from. Oh, and I didn't hate Shia LaBeouf, so that was nice.
July 12, 2013
SirPant

Super Reviewer

    1. Jack Bondurant: You got no goddamn vision Howard!
    – Submitted by Krissy H (13 months ago)
    1. Aunt Winnie: Don't expect no biscuits coming out around here!
    – Submitted by Krissy H (13 months ago)
    1. Forrest Bondurant: Jack, look at me. We're survivors. We control the fear. And without the fear, we are all as good as dead. Do you understand? Do you?
    – Submitted by Eli T (17 months ago)
    1. Forrest Bondurant: Have you met Howard?
    – Submitted by Eli T (17 months ago)
    1. Charley Rakes: Why do your friends call me a nance?
    2. Cricket Pane: I 'dunno, I guess it's cause you smell kindy funny.
    – Submitted by Ima C (17 months ago)
    1. Forrest Bondurant: Jack, look at me. We're survivors. We control the fear. And without the fear, we are all as good as dead. Do you understand? Do you?
    – Submitted by Miguel V (17 months ago)
View all quotes (31)

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