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September 5, 2012

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Lawless is the South's answer to the typical gangster film--just trade the Yankee accents for Southern growls.

Based on the book, "The Wettest County in the World," author Matt Bondurant spins a tale of his grandfather and grand-uncles, who are bootleggers in Franklin County, Virginia during Prohibition. Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke), and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) Bondurant successfully run moonshine out of the mountains and into Chicago, until the law gets involved--and not in the way you might initially think. In what’s referred to as the Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy, Commonwealth Attorney Mason Wardell got his hands dirty when he demanded money in return for moonshine-running protection. Wardell brings in Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) to encourage (read: bully) all bootleggers into helping, but of course the real fight is with the Bondurants, as they stand against Wardell's orders. The Bondurant boys become the heroes of the mountain area as they fight to preserve their product and property.

Tom Hardy shines as Forrest Bondurant, the oldest and smartest of the brothers. I'd gone in expecting a tough, bossy big brother, but Hardy's quiet portrayal of the strongest brother was a pleasant surprise. Hardy bulked up for The Dark Knight Rises and hides his muscles beneath layers of grandfatherly sweaters; he also hides his brass knuckles in the pockets, which makes for some great fight scenes.

He has a few spectacular lines, but it's what we don't hear that makes him great--like how he explains how he's a Bondurant and "we don't lay down for nobody." The line itself is good, but the way he delivers it, with pride and strength and a hint of threat, is what makes Forrest the leader of the brothers. He growls out his words exactly like some southern relatives I know and his shy mumbling around Jessica Chastain's love interest makes Hardy that much more endearing. I rooted for Forrest perhaps more than the other Bondurant brothers. The cast is solid, but Tom Hardy really stands above them all.

That being said, Lawless might be based on a true story, but Hollywood certainly took certain liberties with the storyline. The connection to Chicago was strange--despite my lack of bootleggin' knowledge, I didn't think Chicago was a major player when it came to Virginia moonshine. It seemed pretty obvious that the writers brought in a well-known gangster city of the era if only to show the differences in regional attitudes and connect the two locations so the audience realizes there's an important link in there somewhere.

Gary Oldman's Chicago gangster character was disappointingly underused, though that may just be my bias towards loving any character he plays. Oldman dances on the line of hammy but he's enjoyable to watch. His character is simply a way for Jack, the youngest of the brothers and consequently the one who most wants to prove himself, to become more involved with moonshine and gangster life, to show the audience how he gets a better standing in the family business and establish the connection between gangsters, both Yankee and Southern.

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September 5, 2012

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Comments (4)

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lawless

This was an awesome movie!!!!!!!!!! I can watch it over and over. The brothers were sexy as hell! Omg this is a must see.

Tiandreosborne 84 days ago

[...] I originally wrote this for my magazine’s blog (Blue Ridge Country Magazine). [...]

Lawless: Bondurant Boys as Appalachian Gangsters | Word of the Nerd more than 1 years ago

I was first in to see it in Rocky Mount, our B&B, The Claiborne House is just up the hill from the movie theater, and although it was hollywood-ized, it was still very entertaining. Comparing it to the book or real life shouldn't really apply, it is just a movie, to make money. So in the end, people got a kick out of it, always wanting the home team to win, over the out-of-towners.

I recommend seeing it, but please don't bring your kids. Innkeeper at The Claiborne House B&B in Franklin County, Virginia

InnkeeperVA more than 1 years ago

lawless

Best movie in a LONG time! KUDOS TO ACTOR TOM HARDY!!!!

Pamela Robinson 290 days ago

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