Movie Review: LAWLESS (2012)
Shia LeBeouf sucks. OK, let me try to be a bit more articulate in my dislike. Shia LeBeouf’s bad acting can only be rivaled by his poor choice in films and his total disregard for any semblance of ‘believable’ in his deliveries. And his casting and characterization was probably the biggest reason why LAWLESS simply sucked as well. Here is my frustrated Movie Review…
Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars (original)
2.5 out of 5 Stars (revised)
[ Update: Terrence from The Focused Filmographer’s vehement disagreement of my perception of this film made me revisit the film after writing this Review. Putting aside my annoyance of Shia LeBeouf, I realized that the performances of Tom Hardy & Jessica Chastain, and their characters’ sub plot, are the biggest redeeming factors of this movie. I’ve revised my rating of it accordingly. I still found the film itself to be lacking in many areas, but it definitely was not deserving of my initial rating. Now please excuse me while I enjoy a warm slice of Humbe Pie. ]
With an awesome cast of Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Tom Hardy, combined with a setting of bootlegging times in America, LAWLESS should’ve been a great movie leaving a lasting impression. It did for me, but not in a good way. “Why not?” you may ask in the world I’ve created in my mind. I’d answer: “Shia LeBeouf.”
The story is supposedly about three brothers who run liquor from State Lines during Prohibition in America. Illegally… for my readers who may not know what ‘prohibition’ refers to. After a government guy tries to muscle in on the business by wanting a cut, the three brothers refuse and stay independent and become Public Enemy Number 1, chased down by a lawman played by Guy Pearce. A premise that sounds pretty fuckin awesome no? No. Not at all.
Despite what the synopsis and that narrative set up the movie to be, LAWLESS essentially becomes about Shia Lebeouf’s character, Jack, and his complete and utter douchebaggery throughout the movie. Jack is the youngest of the three brothers, and the most immature, as it evident by his actions, which constantly gets him into trouble, requiring his older brothers to bail him out. That is essentially the entire conflict of the movie, with majority of the plot points working around the fact of Jack being a complete douchebag.
In the beginning of the movie, Jack is kept away from the details of the bootlegging business by big brother Forrest played by Tom Hardy. Jack eventually takes some risks that cause the brothers to become very successful business when the government places restrictions on the transporting of alcohol. His minor success is then celebrated by showing off a new car, fine tailored suits and basically flashing money that he shouldn’t be making. Y’know… ‘cuz it’s illegal!
LAWLESS is interesting, riveting and even shocking in some scenes. Most of those sequences involve Hardy and Jessica Chastain’s character. However, the movie is ruined by the casting choice of LeBeouf and the way his character was written and performed. Despite their infamy and the cops being on their ass, Jack just flaunts his wealth even further and tries to impress, of all girls, the Preacher’s daughter. All of this culminates in further douchebaggery as Jack goes to kill Pearce’s lawman, oh, and 20 other cops… by himself.
Shia LeBeouf is able to play every single role he does, with this annoying and irritable quality that prevents him from ever being well liked. His characters’ actions always seem to be motivated by immature, knee jerk reactions, on the basis of which the story can move forward. Almost every movie of his, shows LeBeouf in this manner. Similar to all his other roles, his hyper quick way of speech, combined with his nervous eyes doesn’t make him relatable. Not once in LAWLESS am I ever happy for his success, or rooting for him.
LAWLESS has this amazing sub plot of Hardy’s Forrest and Jessica Chastain’s city girl with a past trying to find solace in the country. Their love affair is told so subtly and with such grace through out the other stupidity of the movie, that it feels like we’re watching two different movies altogether. Tom Hardy is a lot more restraint in this role, but his version of a Southern drawl (I assume) becomes more like Bane without the mask.
Overall LAWLESS could’ve been very riveting drama, however, it’s solely Shia Lebeouf’s performance and how his character was portrayed, that effectively ruins any chance for anyone to care aboutwhat happens, effectively ruining the movie itself.