"Lawless": Movie critics review the bloody tale

Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska in a scene from "Lawless." LaBeouf plays the younger, less violent brother of a trio of Appalachia bootlegging brothers protecting their backwoods freedom from a savage lawman from Chicago (played by Guy Pearce). Photos: Scenes from Cannes Film Festival 2012 Weinstein Company

Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska in "Lawless."
Weinstein Company
(CBS News) John Hillcoat's Prohibition-era western "Lawless" hits the big screen today with a star-studded cast that includes Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke.

The gangster tale follows the Bondurant Brother trio, bootlegging siblings who chase the American Dream in Virginia. Inspired by author Matt Bondurant's novel, "The Wettest County in the World," "Lawless" has received luke warm reviews, garnering a 65 percent rating on the review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes.

Many critics praise the acting in the movie, but sound disappointed in the overall flick.

Here's a sampling of reviews:

A.O. Scott of The New York Times: "Mr. [Tom] Hardy mostly grunts, growls and ribbits, occasionally interrupting his angry bullfrog impersonation to deliver down-home bromides that make him sound like Toby Keith choking on a Cheeto."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: "With a dynamite cast, an iconic screenwriter in rocker Nick Cave and an Aussie director in John Hillcoat, you assume a new classic. What you get is an ambitious try."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times: "'Lawless' is a well-made film about ignorant and violent people. Like the recent 'Killer Joe,' I can only admire this film's craftsmanship and acting, and regret its failure to rise above them."

Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "'Lawless' is gripping, muscular work, though a bit too rich. Colorful minor characters fight for their turn in every sequence. The standouts include Dane DeHaan as Jack's boy-scientist sidekick, Noah Taylor as Oldman's henchman and screenwriter/punk rocker Nick Cave as a short-lived bootlegger."

Christy Lemire of NPR: "[Lawless] is both too obvious and not direct enough, and its shapelessness dilutes its power."

David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter: "After proving to be a problematic fit for the grim post-apocalyptic existentialism of The Road, director John Hillcoat is back on more fertile turf with Lawless, a muscular slice of grisly Americana rooted in flavorful Prohibition-era outlaw legend. While a touch overlong and not as distinctive as his last collaboration with screenwriter Nick Cave, the Australian Western The Proposition, the new film is more commercially accessible, fueled by a brooding sense of dread, visceral bursts of violence, potent atmosphere and some juicy character portraits from a robust cast."

Richard Corliss of Time magazine: "As a serious film worthy of the Cannes Competition, Lawless tries to be flawless; as a movie, it's often listless -- lifeless."


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