My attempt at a movie review will look nothing like the reviews from the Roger Eberts of the world. But I’m doing it anyway because I love movies and I got shit to say about them (operative word = shit).
So I went to see “Lawless” this morning with my niece (who is a 27 year old adult) after much pleading with my children to let me out of the house. Little Normy Bates doesn’t always like his mother to see movies without him. But since I need to keep any kid with the nickname Normy Bates as far away from violence as possible, he was forced to stay home.
Lots of fun previews including one for a movie called “Looper” where Joseph Gordon-Levitt wears colored contacts to make him look like a young Bruce Willis and nothing like a Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Looks interesting and fun. That Joseph sure is hot and a hot commodity these days.
I did not get to see a preview for my most anticipated movie of this year, “Argo”. Ben Affleck’s next film. Thought I was going to get lucky when the last preview opened in a middle eastern city. Nope – turned out to be Liam Neeson playing John McClain or Jason Bourne or someone who kicks a lot of bad guy ass.
Back to “Lawless” - the great thing about seeing this movie was I had no idea what to expect. I saw a trailer for it a long time ago but didn’t remember it at all by the time the movie opened this weekend. The most I knew was it was about moonshiners and starred greats like Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy as well as the very much under-appreciated Guy Pearce.
The movie opens with a little boy freezing up when it’s time to shoot a pig. His older tougher brother takes the gun and does the shooting for him. This scene sets up the brotherly dynamic that will be displayed throughout the rest of the film. The older brothers are no nonsense badasses while little Sam Witwicky can’t do shit with a gun when Optimus Prime isn’t around to babysit him. Turns out these band of brothers are the Bondurant boys who have a reputation for being invincible and making the best moonshine in Franklin, Virginia circa 1931.
If you haven’t guessed, the youngest Bondurant brother (Jack) is played by Shia Labeouf whose character is a little too cocky for his level of hardness. But he is a good actor and you do root for him to get mad and beat the shit out of someone. That someone preferably to be Guy Pearce in a smarmy role of a sadist named Charlie Rakes who has the law behind him, and who is hell bent on getting a piece of the Bondurant pie. His appearance in this film can best be described as The Little Rascal’s Alfalfa mixed with the demented charm of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s rotten left pinky toe. He’s gross and terrifying, plain and simple. And let’s face it; it looks as if that middle part in his hair was made by Tom Thumb’s tiny little lawn mower. Dude needed a shovel to the face and it took way too long for him to receive it.
I will probably have to watch Pricilla Queen of the Desert to like Guy Pearce again. (Well, and to see those ping pong balls popping out of that woman’s cooch again. That’s always fun.)
Moving on. The oldest and the leader of the Bondurant brothers is played by Tom Hardy who is a bit of a chameleon as an actor, and whose resume has grown quite a bit over the last few years. He plays Forrest, respected and feared in Franklin. His legend calls him immortal. Apparently he cannot be killed but it’s not for lack of trying. Tom Hardy who is English, was praised and criticized for his voice work in The Dark Knight Rises. In this film, he also has strange sounds coming from his vocal chords. I’m not saying they don’t work. I am saying they make him sound as though he is the offspring of a Foghorn Leghorn/Sgt. Barnes from Platoon sexual union.
But those lips, oh those sweet sugary balloon animal lips make me forgive any and all of the grunts and mumbles. Although Tom Hardy is a chameleon, it’s those beautiful lips that give him away.
The middle brother, Howard, is a played by an Aussie actor named Jason Clarke. He is the most untamed of the Bondurant brothers. But a good man to have on your side of the fight.
One of the subplots involves Gary Oldman as gangster Floyd Banner who makes the boys major bucks by being a good customer. Here Gary really doesn’t have much to do. However, he does get to have a least one psycho Gary Oldman moment. And that’s all we ever really ask of him, right? Worth the cost of my gourmet pretzel for sure.
The other subplots involve love for two of the Bondurant brothers. Jessica Chastain, looking as radiant and damaged as ever, plays Maggie Beauford, an ex-dancer from Chicago looking for a quieter life in the boonies. She starts working at the Bondurant’s bar and falls for Forrest in the process. The woman has the most angelic face, and I just can’t get enough of looking at it. I honestly think the world would be a better place if we could all cuddle a blanket of her hair nightly.
The other love story revolves around young Jack and the very religious yet rebellious Bertha Minnix, played by Mia Wasikowska. Go on and pronounce that one. It was hard enough to spell it. No one knows how to say her name, which will unfairly hurt her future Oscar chances. She is sweet, and her face is so innocent in this film she is like a Precious Moments doll come to life. Bertha’s dad despises the lawless Bondurants, so it’s not an easy road to her heart for Jack.
The movie is very violent. Look away kind of violence actually. Especially a hotel room scene with a pretty package sent to Charlie Rakes. Oh lawd. I wish I could Eternal Sunshine the Spotless Mind that one from my memory banks.
In the end I’m glad I saw Lawless because it was entertaining, well acted and beautifully filmed. Sure there are flaws but I don’t expect all of my dollars to go to flawless entertainment. I am happy I gave two hours of my life to this film. Oh and if I can mention those Tom Hardy lips one last time. It was easy to pay to look at those. Easy.