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‘Lawless’ is a cut above other crime stories

Movie review
By: Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger
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“Lawless” Directed by John Hillcoat Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman Rating: Three out of five stars ‘Lawless’ is a cut above other crime stories By Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger There’s an old saying, “Laws are meant to be broken.” When the prohibition of alcohol infringed on boozy activities enjoyed by many, those laws broke more violently than others. “Lawless” tells the story of the Bondurant brothers, who were bootleggers of homemade moonshine in the 1930s, and their tussle with crooked lawmen who wanted a cut of their business. Youngest brother Jake (Shia LaBeouf) is all nervous ambition but lacks the grit required to get his hands dirty. Because of that, his older brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) treat Jake as if he has a handicap. Forrest’s grizzled demeanor comes as natural to him as a fish takes to water. He suffers no fools and is a knot of steely resolve and coiled strength waiting to strike. When Jake bites off more than he can chew trying to edge his way into the family business, it brings a war to his doorstep that he wasn’t prepared to fight. The film takes its time to ratchet up the tension and then unleashes its fury in scenes of stark violence. There’s an authenticity to the film’s backdrop and characterizations but there are a few odd notes that keep it from being truly indelible. For one, Gary Oldman’s gangster character has almost nothing to do and he leaves almost as quickly as he arrives. Guy Pearce essentially plays a cartoon character and is very distracting, despite his commitment to the outlandish role. Also, for all of its violent overtures, there seems to be a discernable lack of risk for the main characters. The stakes feel shallow because most of the real tragedy occurs on the fringes. However, “Lawless” remains a captivating look at the lengths people will go to protect their interests and principles. As far as crime films go, it’s a cut above the rest but a stone’s throw from greatness. Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.