Shia LaBeouf’s new starring vehicle, Lawless, is a good movie for any fan of the crime drama genre of movies. This gritty, violent movie follows the story of the infamous Bondurant brothers. The brothers were known throughout Franklin County, Virginia during the prohibition era. Knowing this, it’s tough to not make a quick comparison to the likes of The Untouchables. And while knowing that it’s another period piece that takes place during the Prohibition era, it would also be wrong to compare it to The Untouchables. It really is its own movie. It shows a completely different side of life in the Prohibition era. The story itself is compelling. And it’s nice to see lead star Shia LaBeouf starring in a less typecast role this time out instead of running around screaming nonstop. He actually is convincing in the role of Jack Bondurant. This dramatic turn is a nice change of pace for him.
Shia LaBeouf’s take on Jack Bondurant is one part of Lawless’ success. The movie’s cinematography and backdrop make for another pair of high points here. The manner in which the movie was shot does an especially impressive job of capturing the intensity of the gunfights between the Bondurant brothers and their rivals. And the way Virginia’s countryside was captured helped to make the story’s period setting that much more believable. Speaking of that setting, everyone behind the cameras should be commended for making the story believable. From the characters’ attire to the vehicles to minutiae such as the coca-cola signs and markings of the nation’s racial divide on the buildings helps to establish that all important suspension of disbelief.
For all the positives that Lawless offers, there is one blaring downside to this movie. It’s a problem that so many writers face in trying to make a good story. That problem is pacing. As impressive as the story is thanks to all of the work that went into bringing it to life, its pacing is problematic to say the least. Considering that the movie runs just shy of two hours, it feels as if it took forever for the entire thing to unravel. It’s almost as if writer Nick Cave wasn’t sure where to take the story as he attempted to adapt it from Matt Bondurant’s original book about his family. Ironically, it’s Bondurant’s own words in the bonus feature, “The True Story of the Wettest County in The World” that helps to make up for that slow pacing. And that bonus feature brings up another interesting point about this movie. That point is that this is one more home release in which the movie’s bonus features help to make the movie, too, rather than break it.
The bonus features in the home release of Lawless are rare. Typically, a home release’s bonus features can be saved for viewing after the movie. But this is one of those rare times when they should be viewed first. To go into the movie without some understanding of its background will undoubtedly change how one views the story presented here. Among the most important of those features is “The True Story of the Wettest County in The World.” Matt Bondurant, who is a direct descendant of the original Bondurant brothers helps tell the brothers’ story along with those behind the cameras. The comparison of the original story to that of the movie actually helps make the story’s pacing more bearable, and thus makes the movie more watchable. Add in the director’s commentary both on the Blu-ray and DVD feature included in the set, and any crime drama fan has on their hands a movie that’s worth at least one watch.