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Review: Lawless

John Hillcoat's gangster melodrama
By PETER KEOUGH  |  August 31, 2012
2.0 2.0 Stars

Of all the films that John Hillcoat's gangster melodrama resembles, Roger Corman's pulp classic Bloody Mama might be the most instructive; it too has a great cast and a terrific story, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. Hillcoat, though, strives for epic and ends up with clichés. Three brothers run a bootlegging outfit in Depression-era Virginia — two tough guys (Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) and the runt, played by Shia LaBeouf, who convinces as a wimp but not as the brains of the outfit that he becomes. Like the hippies in Savages, they are too successful for their own good, and outsiders horn in on the action. And inject some life and humor: Guy Pearce as a brilliantined, sadistic FBI agent is like late Brando at his nuttiest, and Gary Oldman as a wry mobster gives the movie a soul for the brief time he's on screen. As for the women, Jessica Chastain's tough cookie tends bar and patches wounds, and Mia Wasikowska brings a naughty glint to her thankless role as a sexy holy roller.

  Topics: Reviews , movie, John Hillcoat, melodrama,  More more >
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