Lawless: A brutal glorification of the Prohibition



23:16 GMT, 6 September 2012


Verdict: A brutal western killfest

Lawless is a glorification, based on a true story, of three brothers making and selling liquor in Virginia during Prohibition.

Naturally, this involves a good deal of brutality, including the lads’ removal of a man’s testicles without anaesthetic.

We’re expected to root for the two main brothers (played by Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf) because they look so cool and cute respectively — so much so that the only good-looking women in the area (underwritten characters played by Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) can’t wait to overlook all their murderin’ and fall for them.

Scroll down for trailer

Lawless: Shia LaBeouf is on the run in the new brutal western flick

Lawless: Shia LaBeouf, right, is on the run in the new brutal western flick

All the same, it’s pretty hard ethically to distinguish good guys from bad. Gary Oldman has an undemanding cameo as a sleek, big-city gangster, and most of the heavy-duty snarling is done by law-enforcer Guy Pearce, with a keen interest in torturing suspects and the most sinister haircut since Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men.

The violence is graphic and gruesome, and — as in Dredd — the influence of Peckinpah is discernible.

Unfortunately, director John Hillcoat has none of Peckinpah’s gift for story-telling, and spends far too much time gazing at people posing in rural landscapes.

It begs to be considered in the same light as Bonnie And Clyde, but it’s nowhere near as much fun and has nothing to say about the clash between puritanical Prohibition and amoral free enterprise.

Mainly, it’s just an excuse for a lot of vacuous, macho strutting.