The problem is that there really isn't anything beneath the surface, no grander theme a la an Unforgiven. Most characters are well played archetypes, and aren't bothered with being given dimension. It won't challenge you as a watcher to decipher its meaning, and is very much 'what you see is what you get.' Fortunately, what you see is visually lush, with well composed shots and a very period-accurate feel.
Saw this on 6/9/15
The well shot Lawless is ruined by it's own lack of ambition and fluctuating impetus on it's heroes. it's well acted on the whole and I believe Guy Pearce gives a stand out performance (just as in Hannibal, his make up gives him leverage).
Lawless is a much better film than I thought it would be before watching it, and much worse than I thought it would be after 25 minutes. This movies looks perfect. The cinematography, costumes, atmosphere, setting, characters are all great. The problem arises with the weak writing. The acting almost patched up the holes in the movie, but even with power performances, the flaws are just too noticeable.
The Bondurant Brothers make their living bootlegging. It's pretty easy for them in Franklin County, until Charley Rakes shows up and starts creating problems for their profession. In between, we see a few love stories progressing and the inner tension between the brothers. Mostly the youngest, Jack and Forrest- the boss.
Lawless is well paced and entertaining. Shia LaBeouf, even though he was playing a mentally flawed character, gave a great performance, as did the whole cast from Tom Hardy to Jessica Chastain to Guy Pearce. This is cool little prohibition period piece, but could have been much better.