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Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain ... see more see more... , Mia Wasikowska , Dane DeHaan , Chris McGarry , Tim Tolin , Gary Oldman , Lew Temple , Marcus Hester , Bill Camp , Alex Van , Noah Taylor , Mark Ashworth , Tom Proctor , Bruce McKinnon , Erin Mendenhall , Toni Lynn Byrd , Robert T. Smith , Jake Nash , William Harrison , Joyce Baxter , Jeff Braun , Malinda Baker , Tom Turbiville , Chad Randall , Terry Keasler , Duncan Nicholson , Ron Clinton Smith , Anna House , Ricky Muse , Peter Krulewitch

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 ... read more read more...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

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75% liked it

105,292 ratings


67% liked it

201 critics

R, 1 hr. 55 min.

Directed by: John Hillcoat

Release Date: August 29, 2012

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DVD Release Date: November 27, 2012

Stats: 4,873 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (4,873)

  • July 2, 2014
    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 atmosp... read moreheric 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.
  • June 24, 2014
    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 activ... read moreities 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.
  • August 7, 2013
    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 themsel... read moreves 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
  • July 12, 2013
    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. T... read morehe 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.
  • June 15, 2013
    What was even the point of having one of the greatest actors alive in a five minute role, i love Gary Oldman it was a shame we didnt see more of him!
    All in all the acting was top notch but i didnt find the movie to be that overly interesting or engaging!
    I will watch again with... read more lower expectations!
  • February 12, 2013
    We are in prohibition time, in the countryside in Virginia. The men are tough and they enforce their own law protecting their moonshine businesses. However they aren't the cringing redneck cliché of many other films; this isn't Deliverance. This is a dark movie where it seems tho... read morese outwith of the religious community live and survive by force. In comes law enforcers from outside led by a sadistic sergeant, and we have an explosive mix.
    Again, don't get the wrong impression. This film isn't about gung-ho good v evil. This is a lot more. Based on a true story (albeit likely taking big liberties with the truth), this is about the relationship of three brothers: two are ruthless whilst the third (Le Beouf) is weak. They look out for each other and that's the real nub.
    Action comes generally in short sharp moments, but thankfully doesn't detract from the rest of the movie. Surprisingly some great acting and great camera work.
    Personally, I enjoyed this very much. Ending was the only bit I was disappointed with but rest was very good. Give it a try, you may be surprised with what you find. 5 Stars 2-9-12
  • January 31, 2013
    Based on a book inspired by true events (though how much of this is actually true is debatable), this is the story of Jack Bondurant and his brothers Howard and Forrest who ran a profitable business as bootleggers with their homemade moonshine throughout Prohibition in Franklin C... read moreounty, Virginia.

    The film follows them as they struggle to keep their business alive in the wake of the wrath of a corrupt and brutal special deputy named Charley Rakes, who will stop at nothing to get a cut of the locals's profits.

    Shia LaBeouf is good as Jack, the youngest, whose grandson wrote the book that musician Nick Cave adapted this screenplay from. Yeah, the same Nick Cave from the group The Bad Seeds. He's not just a musician, having authored a couple of novels, and one other screenplay besides this. He also provides the score, along with his bandmate Warren Ellis and a few friends of theirs, including legendary bluegrass icon Ralph Stanley.

    LaBeouf shakes off the grime from the Transformers films, and is quite convincing as the runt of the family trying to prove his worth. As Howard, Jason Clarke is fine, but rather underwhelming. The real scene stealer of the Bondurant clan is Forrest, played strongly by Tom Hardy, who is easily becoming a guy worth watching, as he's destined to become a legend. Gary Old,an is solid, if sadly underutilized as a gangster for whom Jack develops some hero worship, especially when he comes to his aid. When Hardy isn't the scene stealer, Guy Pearce is. As Rakes, he is profoundly intense, creepy, and makes for one memorable villain. Of course we have some love interests played by the ubiquitous Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska, and, while the could have been given better material (and more to work with in general), they make the best out of what they're given.

    I do like Cave as a writer, and while his score here is fine, I prefer the works that put him on the map. I'm not opposed to his non-musical exploits however, as I found one of his novels to be, if nothing else, an interesting and curious read. His script here is okay, but very underwritten. It really doesn't offer much depth beyond the bare basics of the outlaw story formula, but it could have been worse. Obviously it could have been better, given the source material and subject matter, and, had it been beefier, it probably would have.

    I'll let it slide though, despite the fact that the film drags on about half of the time. I'm being lenient because I dig the subject matter, loved the cinematography, and thought John Hillcoat provided some decent direction. The period details and locations are nice too. The film is also smart about not pulling punches with the story, and indeed there are some grisly moments here. It's just a shame that most of the big stuff was saved for the end, with only a few moments of rough stuff here and there leading up to it.

    All in all, this is a flawed film. I should be a lot harder on it, but, while I recognize the problems, I can't deny that it was entertaining, and had some good acting. Give it a watch.
  • January 31, 2013
    The last film that director John Hillcoat and screenwriter/musician Nick Cave collaborated on was the 2005 neo-western "The Proposition". Four years later, Hillcoat went on to make his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" (on which Cave supplied the music) but now they are ... read moretogether again with Cave back on screenwriting duties. If you're familiar with the aforementioned films then you'll also be familiar with the sark sense of realism that they bring. This is no different and just as good as anything they've produced so far.
    In Franklin County, Virginia, in 1931, the Bondurant brothers: Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) run a distillery and bootlegging business in Moonshine. However, the District Attorney decides to clamp down on the bootleggers as Prohibition is introduced. To enforce the law, crooked and unscrupulous, Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) is brought in to bring the brothers down but the Bondurant's refuse to yield.
    When the reviews of this film started flooding in, the opinions were less than favourable, leading me to lower my expectations. In many ways, I'm glad this happened as I found plenty to enjoy here and feel that the film may be a little harshly criticised. For a start - as mentioned earlier - Hillcoat has completely captured the gritty realism required. His feel for the time and place and eye for detail is highly impressive and it's accompanied by an excellently evocative score by Cave and Warren Ellis. From the offset, it establishes it's methodical and deliberate pace. It builds slowly but assuredly and spends quite a bit of time on character development; LaBeouf impresses with his, runt of the litter, leading role but the standout's among the cast are a brooding Hardy and an extremely corrupt and unsavoury Pearce. However, this particular path that it treads so well, is also the films undoing. Too much time is spent on some characters and not enough on others; Chastain has little to do but still manages to do well, with what she's got. The third member of the Bondurant brothers (Jason Clarke) is underwritten but again squeezes enough from the material he's given and still manages to make an impact amongst a high calibre cast. The most criminally underused is Gary Oldman, though. It builds his character up and then doesn't let him loose. Oldman is an actor that excels in these type of roles, yet it would seem that most of his scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Regardless of their screen time, everyone manages to pitch in here, though, and if this wasn't a talented collection of performers, then some would have faded into the background. The fault with this has to lie in the hands of Nick Cave and his patchy, underwritten script. The conclusion is rushed and unsatisfactory and despite promising an enticing confrontation between it's central characters, it fails to deliver. Maybe this would have led it down the formulaic path but I still would rather have that, than the ending we are provided. That being said, I still found this to be an engrossing, atmospheric and vivid depiction of depression-era times. It definitely does have it's flaws and if you scratch the surface you'll find a generic crime film but it's so richly textured that it's flaws are, mostly, forgivable.
    Much like the old Jalopy's that they drive, this doesn't quite have the mileage to see it comfortably to it's destination but it still a thoroughly involving, if occasionally bumpy, ride.
  • January 12, 2013
    Ok...3 3/4's here. I am a Tom Hardy fan, but I can't say that I was comfortable with him in this role. As a matter of fact, I had to put subtitles on just to understand what the heck he was saying. All in all, though, the acting was top notch from the main actors to supporting ca... read morest. Guy Pearce is virtually unrecognizable as the 'baddie' in this film - and does an excellent job. THAT ALONE is worth a watch, because he runs away with this film, in my opinion....
  • January 4, 2013
    Not without a few hiccups along the way, "Lawless" is a great prohibition-era drama with top-level acting, direction and photography. One of the standout crime films of 2012.

Critic Reviews

David Thomson
June 14, 2013
David Thomson, The New Republic

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. Full Review

Anthony Lane
September 3, 2012
Anthony Lane, New Yorker

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? Full Review

J. R. Jones
August 31, 2012
J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader

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. Full Review

Peter Travers
August 30, 2012
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

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. Full Review

John Anderson
August 30, 2012
John Anderson, Wall Street Journal

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 ... Full Review

Dana Stevens
August 30, 2012
Dana Stevens, Slate

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

Mark Feeney
August 30, 2012
Mark Feeney, Boston Globe

Much of the action may be nearly as grim as in director John Hillcoat's previous feature, "The Road" - "Lawless" is very bloody - but the scenery and production design are a whole lot nicer. Full Review

Glenn Kenny
August 30, 2012
Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies

This isn't to say that there's not enough here, but just don't look for it all to add up. Full Review

Keith Phipps
August 30, 2012
Keith Phipps, AV Club

Lawless is filled with forbidding shadows and verdant abundance, contrasting the indifference of nature with the violence of the humanity within it. Full Review

Roger Ebert
August 29, 2012
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

I can only admire this film's craftsmanship and acting, and regret its failure to rise above them. Full Review

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    • Jack Bondurant: You got no goddamn vision Howard!
    • Aunt Winnie: Don't expect no biscuits coming out around here!
    • 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?
    • Forrest Bondurant: Have you met Howard?
    • Charley Rakes: Why do your friends call me a nance?
    • Cricket Pane: I 'dunno, I guess it's cause you smell kindy funny.
    • 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?

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