Sprawling, uneven cast in gritty ‘Lawless’ lacks coherence

Contributed
Tom Hardy in ‘Lawless.’ Rated R, 115 min. The Weinstein Company, 2012.

In “Lawless,” the Bondurant brothers (played by Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) are bootleggers in 1930s Virginia who face off against big-time gangsters and crooked deputies looking for pay-offs.

Although it’s based on a true story, the violent, over-stuffed script sometimes feels directionless and rife with clichés. The special deputy from Chicago (Guy Pearce) is ruthless, fussy and bent on tracking down the brazen brothers, and a former dancer (Jessica Chastain) finds the soft side of eldest Bondurant Forrest (Hardy, an excellent chameleon who steals the spotlight).

Mia Wasikowska and Dane DeHaan make great young additions to the supporting cast, but the biggest stumbling block in the whole film may be believing LaBeouf as a tough, gun-toting bootlegger. The former child actor still struggles with actually inhabiting a role, rather than just dressing up and reciting lines. He doesn’t quite click, so neither does the film.

Gary Oldman – often one of the most surprising and inventive actors in any movie – only has two major scenes, and one of them is wordless. “Lawless” leaves you thinking about what could have been.

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