Friday, November 7, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: Lawless

2012, John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) -- Netflix

You can expect a couple of things from a screenplay by Nick Cave -- inexplicably badass characters and blood, lots of blood. Considering I got that all of two screenplays, I have to admit, its the tone of his song writing that influences the statement. Nick likes tough, legendary protagonists. In Lawless he gives us Forrest Bondurant, played by Tom Hardy. Ever clad in layers of (likely rarely washed) sweaters, Bondurant and his brothers are moonshiners in Prohibition period Virginia. Forrest has a reputation that he is unkillable, a rep he got in the war. They are hillbillies selling booze to hillbillies. But when the business expands, they catch the eyes of a local attorney, who wants a cut. Forrest refuses and a nemesis is introduced with Charlie Rakes, a sociopathic cop from the city, played by Guy Pearce.

This is Tom Hardy in his thick state. Hardy seems to flow between thin, stylish characters (think RocknRolla and Inception) and muscle covered thick brutes (Bronson, The Dark Knight Rises). I saw Bondurant as once the muscle bound brute, now aged and growing a layer of fat under the sweaters. He is settled in his life as a moonshiner, running the business and keeping his brothers' safety intact through his iron willed reputation, and his own personal belief in it. He shuffles about, mumbling through a beardy face thick with a mountain accent. But when violent action is called for, his eyes flash with awareness. He is the visible focus of the movie and the centre of the story.

These movies are always about plucky criminals going up against the more than despicable lawman. Yes, the Bondurant brothers are breaking the Prohibition Act but other than mild squabbles between them and their competition and more violent interactions with those that wish to take from the brothers, they are more local heroes than anything. And then there is the fool brother Jack (played by media fool Shia LaBeouf) who not only expands their business  but is responsible for  the tragic death of lame mechanical genius Cricket (Dane DeHaan, who is doing quite well for himself since Chronicle) and the broken heart of Bertha. Catalysts. Deaths. Retribution and eventually aging. The criminals become legends, high above the truth yet bound to it.