The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) normally ushers in the award season that culminates in the Oscars. One movie that Movie Fanatic could see at the annual September celebration of all things film is Lawless. It possesses all the elements that the trend-setting festival has been living on in the last decade.
As we prepare to head to TIFF, Lawless lands. If this film is not in the Oscar race come nomination time, it is a cinematic crime.
Tom Hardy is astounding as Forrest Bondurant and deserving of a nomination for Best Actor. After his terrific turns in Warrior and of course as The Dark Knight Rises' Bane, the talent gives his career best as the leader of a Prohibition-era band of brothers who move moonshine.
The film is based on the true story of the Application family who managed to not only flourish in a Depression economy, but became a part of the fabric of American lore.
Lawless is spawned from the book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, grandson of the famous outlaws/opportunists. Screenwriter Nick Cave has literally taken prose word for word from the novel that is dripping with dialogue that is to die for.
After The Proposition, director John Hillcoat and screenwriter/composer Nick Cave stumbled on a very good thing and their prolific partnership continues. Cave adapted the book for the screen while Hillcoat’s direction recalls many similar era classics such as Public Enemies and The Untouchables. Two people could not have been better suited to bring Lawless to life.
Hillcoat’s cast is top notch. Shia LaBeouf is Hardy’s youngest brother Jack and literally becomes a man in front of our eyes over the course of the film. Jason Clarke is Howard and captures numerous emotions effortlessly in a meaty supporting role.
Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman portray polar opposites who utilize similar means to their ends while Jessica Chastain continues her stellar streak as a love interest for Hardy’s Forrest. Pearce is a corrupt Chicago agent bent on crushing the criminal element that has launched the most widespread crime wave in U.S. history.
Oldman is a Windy City gangster who takes a liking to the Bondurant brothers. The fact that Pearce and Oldman’s parts are so small speaks volumes to the power of the story that Cave and Hillcoat have crafted.
As shown in the Lawless red band trailer, the film breaks all the rules. That is a quite good thing. Reflective of its characters and the lengths they go to to ensure a future for their family, the production has done much with little. Initially the film was to be handled by a major Hollywood studio. Now, it is being released by the Weinstein Company, an outfit that could not have been more perfect for this production. Hillcoat may have had to tighten his purse strings while shooting, but it does not show. Lawless is a film both of scope and searing power.