August 29, 2012
On the Big Board
||I like Hardy but he plays the 'bah-humbug' up too much, Chastain plays the anxiety up too much, and LeBeouf plays the eagerness up too much.
What’s that, you say? Why don’t they make more Depression-era bootlegger dramas with Gary Oldman And Guy Pearce? Well you’re in luck; Bob and Harvey Weinstein have heard your voice. Based on a novel by Matt Bondurant (never heard of him) called The Wettest Country in the World (haven’t read it), Lawless is the story of three moonshiners who decide to fight the system when the system comes looking for a cut of the profits.
Sustaining his recent habit of being absolutely everywhere, Tom Hardy stars as Forrest Bondurant and is joined by Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke as his younger siblings. The brothers are close knit and they work hard, running a perfectly respectable illegal bootlegging operation. Then a corrupt deputy named Rakes (Guy Pearce) appears on the scene demanding protection money, making it clear that compliance is not optional.
Things are complicated for the brothers when the potential for love enters their lives, and we all know that the choice between what’s in your heart and what’s in your wallet isn’t always an easy one. Forrest and his brothers are not nice men. Rakes is a not nice man with a Federal badge. Things get a little chippy when they go head to head. Lines will be crossed, lives will be shattered, and things will get real. The Bondurants want to make a living. So does Rakes; he just prefers the easy way, nothing personal.
This is not a Dukes of Hazzard style power struggle where backslapping good old boys do what they do with a wink and a nod, behind the backs of a bunch of local flunkies. It looks more like a war of attrition - a guns blazing, get-your-knuckles-torn-up fight to the finish. It looks like a hard hitting period movie with a solid cast, putting on their best accents just in time for people to start muttering about Nominations-with-a-capital “N”.
There’s no question that Tom Hardy is a rising star. It’s encouraging to see LaBeouf try to turn back the clock to a time when he was a promising talent, instead of an Indiana Jones ruiner. Guy Pearce is enjoying a resurgence of late, and we all know Gary Oldman is all 31 flavors of awesome. But let’s forget about about Nominations, capitalized or otherwise. Lawless enjoyed some positive buzz at Cannes, but what’s more important is its eventual entertainment value.
In my eyes, an uncompromising period movie with a solid all star cast sure sounds like entertainment, as well as a great way to start the fall. We’ll see if audiences agree. (Bruce Hall/BOP)
September 2, 2012
In 2008, Matt Bondurant wrote a novel entitled The Wettest County in the World. The fledgling scribe had inside knowledge of the subject matter. His grandfather and granduncles are the protagonists of the story. These three brothers made their mark in the world during the Prohibition era. While everyone else in the country struggled to find ready sources of alcohol, the Bondurants became the most popular moonshiners on the East Coast. In the process, their home in Franklin County, Virginia, became the proverbial Wettest County in the World.
The cinematic adaptation has been retitled Lawless to better reflect the extreme violence in the story. The Bondurant brothers are first time criminals who quickly learn that the world is a dangerous place for anybody demonstrating the level of profitability that successful moonshiners can achieve. Mobsters as well as corrupt lawmen all attempt to get a taste of the action, forcing the Bondurants to decide whether they are willing to develop violent tendencies in order to protect what is their own.
In February of 2010, a top flight cast including Shia LaBeouf, Ryan Gosling, Scarlett Johansson, and Amy Adams was scheduled to star in a film adaptation of The Wettest County in the World. Alas, director John Hillcoat (The Road) announced at the start of the year that financing had collapsed for the project. Later, Sony Red Wagon Entertainment and The Weinstein Company stepped in with the requisite capital. By this point, several of the intended stars had scheduling conflicts and were forced to drop out.
When shooting began thirteen months later in February of 2011, LaBeouf was the only member of the quarter still involved. Joining him on the project are Inception’s Tom Hardy, Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska, The Help’s Jessica Chastain, L.A. Confidential’s Guy Pearce, and living legend Gary Oldman. Any film that features a cast this impressive has lofty expectations. Lawless may not be a box office juggernaut as that’s not really The Weinstein Company’s forte. The film could, however, perform well enough to justify end of year awards recognition for some of its performers. (David Mumpower/BOP)