‘Lawless,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Almost as soon as movies could talk, they were making films about the gangsters who came to prominence by supplying liquor to thirsty Americans who didn’t believe in the nanny-state laws against alcohol known as Prohibition.

“Lawless,” however, is more of a post-Prohibition tale. Though it is set in the period after the end of the ban on alcohol, it deals with the same impulse – to sell illegal liquor and thwart government regulations. In this case, those doing the selling are moonshine makers and runners in 1930s’ Tennessee.

Based on a true story, “Lawless” focuses on the Bondurant brothers: Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf). They own legitimate businesses in Franklin County, Tenn., but are also among the best-known moonshine makers/distributors. The older brothers have a bit of a mythos surrounding their seeming indestructibility, having survived the flu epidemic and World War I.

But things get hinky when a federal agent from Chicago named Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) comes to town to shut them down. Actually, he first offers his terms for letting them stay open; when they refuse to pay protection, he starts to play rough.

Rough being the key term there. Rakes is a fancy-pants sadist with a severe center part, nearly invisible eyebrows and a lip-smacking Midwestern accent that makes the characters in “Fargo” sound like Bugs Bunny. He terrorizes the Bondurants every way he can – but despite pounding the crap out of Jack, he merely riles them up.

This review continues on my website.

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