Review: ‘Lawless’ (MA) *** and a half

IF you’re thinking of taking grandma to see Australian John Hillcoat’s filming of Australian Nick Cave’s violent screenplay adapting Matt Bondurant’s book “The Wettest County in the World” telling how his forebears fared during the Franklin County War in 1931, make her aware of its high quotients of unmitigated blood and sickening brutality.

The Bondurant brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clark) and Jack (Shia Leboeuf) confront the efforts of dandy, psychopath and Federal Agent Rakes (Aussie actor Guy Pearce) to shut down their illegal still in remote Virginia hills.

Not commenting about the wider social or ethical consequences of Prohibition, “Lawless” enjoys the constitutional protection of the right to bear arms in a conflict between bumbling law enforcement and other moonshiners seeking market share. Its good guys are simple folk who, perceiving a market, distilled a beverage of no great distinction that, if your jalopy’s fuel tank ran dry, you could pour in and drive on while you sobered up!

The film looks handsome, particularly when Maggie (Jessica Chastain) is in shot, caring for Forrest’s horrific wounds or going to his bed. Mia Wasikowska is a Mennonite woman defying a parental prohibition on being with Jack. Gary Oldman is another bootlegger who makes a mutually beneficial alliance with the Bondurants.

You can enjoy “Lawless” for its action values, get goosepimples from its fearsome violence or sympathise for its depiction of social deprivations, or all three as a package. And take pride from its Australian components.

At all cinemas

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