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 atmospheric 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.