Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight) has recently emerged as the latest “it” guy in Hollywood. I first viewed him in Guy Ritchie’s gangster drama RocknRolla, and although I found him charming in his supporting role, I was unaware there was such underlying talent. He’s gone on to star alongside some notable names, and that trend will probably only continue in the future. His role in the The Dark Knight Rises as super villain Bane cemented his movie star status, and he’s one to watch for me.
Lawless is based on the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers, as told in the novel The Wettest County in the World, written by one of the Bondurant descendants. The brothers were bootleggers in Prohibition Era Virginia, proving to be murderously resilient and nearly indestructible. Forrest (Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are the two eldest brothers, fearless and violent. Jack (Shia LaBeouf, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon) is the youngest boy and more naïve to the ways of the bootlegging world. He is sensitive and green to the criminal lifestyle, though he is anxious to earn more responsibility from his brothers in their enterprise. His days are spent pining away for the local minister’s daughter, played with youthful innocence by Mia Wasikowska (The Kids Are All Right). A lot of people think Shia is overrated, but I think he does a good job as the well-meaning kid who is in over his head. It’s a common refrain in his roles, and I think his characters are mostly endearing and relatable. However, since he conveys the same sentiment in most of his roles – if you disliked him in one you probably disliked him in nearly all of his movies.
Things are rolling along relatively smoothly for the Bondurant Boys, until they run up against a thorny roadblock. There’s a new sheriff in town (Guy Pearce, Lockout), and he upsets the apple cart by trying to shake them down. When they refuse to be muscled, the Deputy retaliates against the weakest of the tribe, Jack. Forrest in particular is not to be trifled with, as the legend of his immortality is so great that he actually believes it himself. He has survived beatings and several nearly fatal incidents that have convinced the locals that he can’t be killed. Deputy Rakes wouldn’t dare screw with Forrest just yet, but wants to send a message that he intends to go toe to toe over the spoils of his illegal activity. Lawless is largely a vehicle for Hardy, and it’s almost like ‘badass’ is in his DNA. This makes three movies where his character is simply one that is NOT to be fucked with (the first two are Bronson and TDKR if you were wondering). Despite the aforementioned quality, there is evidence of a softer side, as he ultimately becomes involved with a young woman named Maggie who comes to work for them (Jessica Chastain, The Help). Forrest is not violent for violence’s sake, but he has no qualms about defending himself by any means necessary. Maggie appreciates the rugged simplicity that marks his personality, but also reveals a more compassionate side of Forrest. He is so gentle with her that she even has to make all the moves the first time they sleep together, and his manner with her is sweet without contradicting his ruthless ambition.
Lawless was very entertaining throughout, and it’s pretty awesome that it’s based on a true story. The story of the Bondurants was ripe for re-telling, though I’ve heard that some of the surviving family members aren’t too happy with their family’s portrayal. At any rate, Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf gave very solid performances, bolstered by strong supporting turns by Waskikowska and Chastain. Young actor Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) also gave a strong turn as Jack’s best friend Cricket, who becomes caught up in the war between Rakes and the Bondurants. In short, Tom Hardy’s on a roll, and Lawless is one to see. Grade: A