Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Quint thinks John Hillcoat's prohibition-era flick LAWLESS is violently awesome! Cannes 2012!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. It’s appropriate that my first real screening at Cannes was at the Grand Theatre Lumiere. You know it if you’ve ever seen Cannes represented on film or television… it’s that giant set of red-carpeted steps that lead up into a massive auditorium.

I gotta say, it’s kind of a trip taking those steps onto the red carpet. I felt suddenly underdressed. The Gala Screenings at the Lumiere every night are the black tie affairs, but these early screenings are come as you are. I didn’t show up wearing flip-flops and a ragged t-shirt, but still… jeans and sneakers kinda felt wrong on the read carpet.

But I didn’t get yelled at by the many festival officials, so I guess I was presentable enough to be let into the theater.

Man, any cinephile that sees a movie here has to go home super pissed off. I was about 73,000 feet away from the screen, in the upper balcony… and the sound, screen size and brightness was so superb that I didn’t feel that huge gulf between me and film.

It also helped that the movie was pretty great, too. Lawless (formerly titled The Wettest County In The World) is historical drama with some borderline ridiculous/awesome (Ridicusome? Awesomlous?) flourishes that you should have come to expect from a John Hillcoat film by now.



The dude’s batting 1000 in my opinion. I loved The Proposition and The Road, although I’m disappointed that if they were going to change the title from The Wettest County in the World to Lawless they didn’t throw a “The” in front of it so it fit with the rest of his filmography. The Lawless! Tell me I’m wrong. (I know I’m wrong, don’t tell me).

Of his filmography The Proposition is the closest tonally to Lawless, which features a family of moonrunners in 1930s Virginia. Lawless is a slow burn, but Hillcoat smartly uses that to kind of lull you into a passive state so he can sucker punch us with a bit of unexpected badassness. There’s some heavy violence in this flick… oh, and did I mention Gary Oldman shoots down a charging Ford with a Tommy Gun? That too.

But I’m getting all scattershot here. I won’t be able to continue the review until I just list a few bits of random awesomeness:

Guy Pearce plays a federal agent that is so weird that he’s essentially a Prohibition-era Agent Dammers, Gary Oldman plays a mobster that does violence with guns and shovels and is somehow charming while doing it, Tom Hardy is kind of the redneck terminator in the movie, Jessica Chastain is hotter than she’s ever been, Shia LaBeouf gets beat up a lot, Chronicle’s Dane Dehaan turns in a great, super sympathetic performance, brass knuckles are used to devastating effect and all this is based on true events.

Phew. Okay, thanks for letting me gush that out. Now where were we?

At the heart of this tale is a fractured family dynamic. LaBeouf plays the runt of the litter, the smallest of his siblings. He has lots of ambition, but no real gumption. Tom Hardy is the leader, the oldest and toughest of the brothers and Jason Clarke is the crazy brute of the family. He’s kind of like a hillbilly drunken master. When he’s sauced up you don’t want to get on his bad side. Trouble is he’s always sauced up.

There’s a lot of tough love going around the Bondurant brothers and unfortunately Shia sees most of the tough part and not so much the love part. But underneath it all there’s a real sense of kinship.

I know the logline of the movie is about the county putting pressure on the moonshine business during prohibition and that is the beat that drive the plot, but the film really is about family and how each of these brothers compliment each other as they try to make their way in the world. That’s what sets Lawless apart from the myriad of other prohibition-era films.

That and the violence. And the weird-ass bad guy. Special Agent Charlie Rakes is a helluva character and Guy Pearce plays him for all he’s worth. The man is a psychotic, pampered, eyebrow-less monster who has it in for this family… not because they’re breaking the law, but because they’re somehow less corrupt than he is and refuse to play ball when he tries to cut in on their action.



LaBeouf catches a lot of undeserved shit, I think, but he’s particularly strong here. He’s perfectly cast as the wuss that has to learn to grow some balls. His B-story romance with Mia Wasikowska is sweet, innocent and utterly charming, an interesting counter-point to the similar love interest storyline Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain have. Jack Bondurant is sensitive, a romantic. Forrest Bondurant… eh, not so much. But he’s just the right kind of guy for Chastain’s Maggie.

On a technical level, this film is aces. Benoit Delhomme’s cinematography is ridiculously lush and moody at the same time. Nick Cave’s score has that note perfect Southern Americana twang. Chris Kennedy’s production design is that perfect authentic period realism that isn’t so proud of itself it’s the center of attention. The sound design is also amazing, with a particular scene in a church as the congregation worships in song that gave me goosebumps.

In fact everything’s top notch in this film. It really, really worked for me and considering that the Weinsteins have this I imagine we’ll be seeing a big awards push, especially for the actors.

I have a feeling that the seemingly unexpected violence is going to draw comparisons to Drive and if I were the filmmakers I’d embrace that because it’ll only bring more people to the movie… even if it’s not exactly a new style for Hillcoat.



Anyway, so far so good! Bring it on, Cannes! What else you got?

-Eric Vespe
Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • May 19, 2012, 9:18 a.m. CST

    Batting 100? That is 1 outta 10!

    by SoylentMean

    I think that's supposed to mean 1000. Good to hear. I look forward to this movie.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:20 a.m. CST

    I'm guessing you're not getting much sleep in France.

    by SoylentMean

    I hear tell that's where the naked ladies dance. <P> "Moonrunners". It's like a James Bond title. First, they raked the moon, then they ran with it.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:21 a.m. CST

    Yeah .100 is a pretty poor batting average

    by Rupee88

    I assume you meant batting 1000. But Hillcoat is cool and I'll check this out on video eventually.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:23 a.m. CST

    Jessica Chastain "hotter than she's ever been"?

    by SoylentMean

    As much as I hated the smarminess of The Help, everytime she showed up on screen during that movie I began to suck my thumb incessantly. I guess you could say I'm a fool for blondes.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:26 a.m. CST

    Hobbit set (extended visit), Cannes reporting, duuuuude

    by SoylentMean

    You have a kick-ass gig.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:28 a.m. CST

    I'm gonna ask for a ticket for Lucy at the Box Office

    by SoylentMean

    See if the ticket seller gets it.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:33 a.m. CST

    That last image appears to be pretty spoilerish.

    by Flip63Hole

    Isn't that Tom Hardy on the ground right behind Shia? Seems like the "you killed my brother!" scene...

  • May 19, 2012, 9:33 a.m. CST

    Who doesn't expect violence in a gangster movie?

    by SoylentMean

    Besides the MPAA, of course.

  • May 19, 2012, 9:36 a.m. CST

    I was worried about LaBeouf being in it

    by Kakii

    Wasn't sure about this, the trailer looked good, I loved his last 2 films, however wasn't sure if LaBeouf was going to work here. Don't get me wrong I like LaBeouf, but so far we've really not seen him in this type of film and I was hoping we would see him shine a bit more with such a good director and cast around him. Now you've put my mind at rest I'm really looking forward to seeing this!

  • May 19, 2012, 10:18 a.m. CST

    Hillcoat, Oldman, Pierce and Hardy = Im fucking there.

    by grendel69

    Looking foward to this.

  • May 19, 2012, 10:37 a.m. CST

    exactly grendel

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

  • May 19, 2012, 10:38 a.m. CST

    Jeans and sneakers? You're such an American.

    by adeceasedfan

    Not that there is anything wrong with that. U..S..A....U..S..A..

  • May 19, 2012, 10:38 a.m. CST

    if you haven't seen the Proposition

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

    then stop reading this and see it now

  • May 19, 2012, 11:58 a.m. CST

    Oh for fuck's sake

    by Relentless85

    Jessica Chastain is not fucking hot. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

  • May 19, 2012, 12:12 p.m. CST


    by Kakii

    OMFG I just image searched her and your soooo fucking right, what a right ginger minger she is! I wouldn't stick my dick in her and that's saying something!

  • May 19, 2012, 12:20 p.m. CST

    Finally a voice of reason

    by Relentless85

    Redheads are tricky. They're either awkward looking gingers or just insanely hot. There's no in between.

  • May 19, 2012, 12:34 p.m. CST

    @ relentless85 - Jessica Chastain is attractive

    by The_Genteel_Gentile

    Now Scarlett Johansson and Maggie Gyllenhaal make me physically wince with their unattractiveness. Seriously, it's disturbing - their egregiously overt sensualization on screen is akin to dolling up someone with down syndrome. It's just... wrong.

  • May 19, 2012, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Jessica Chastain

    by dukeroberts

    I don't care for redheads. The only movie I have found her attractive in is The Help in which she is a blond sexpot. She was pretty hot in that. Again, as a blonde, NOT as a redhead.

  • May 19, 2012, 12:39 p.m. CST


    by dukeroberts

    That picture of Guy Pearce, eyebrowless, peaking out the window with his revolver pointed, has me sold on seeing this movie. He's good in everything.

  • May 19, 2012, 1:02 p.m. CST

    Agree with Gyllenhaal being fugly ,disagree with Johansson

    by Relentless85

  • May 19, 2012, 1:05 p.m. CST

    The Proposition: best. western. ever.

    by Simpsonian

    In my opinion, which of course means absolutely nothing.

  • And the red head is stunning. Redhead, Blonde, or Brunette doesn't matter. Is she a prototypical sexy woman? No, and that's good to have some variety.

  • May 19, 2012, 1:52 p.m. CST

    So there IS a Nick Cave score? Fuck yeah.

    by Brad Elmore

    Nick cave is truly a living legend, there hasn't been a thing he's done that I haven't loved. Really excited for this movie. John Hillcoat's sensibilities are right up my alley, both THE PROPOSITION and GHOSTS OF THE CIVIL LIVING DEAD are sort of raw-gut masterpieces. I felt that THE ROAD tried too hard to be low-key and avoid set-pieces that it sort of forgot to be a movie. It wasn't bad, it just could have used a little indulgence, in my opinion. McCarthy describes the world nebulously, but he does make mention of the fact that the air is choked with ash and smoke, whereas the movie looks like hobos in the pacific Northwest. Still, I thought the performances were great and the score was beautiful. But what I'm really crossing my fingers for is that Nick Cave does the score for COGAN'S TRADE, er, KILLING THEM SOFTLY or whatever its called now. Last time Cave did a score for Andrew Dominik film it turned out being one of the most moving, beautiful pieces of movie music I've ever heard, rivaled by Clint Mansell's score for THE FOUNTAIN when it comes to which one I pop in and listen to most.

  • May 19, 2012, 2:55 p.m. CST

    I found her pictures on google

    by ajit maholtra

  • May 19, 2012, 2:56 p.m. CST

    And here's another one looking like Julia Roberts zombie

    by ajit maholtra

  • May 19, 2012, 3:06 p.m. CST

    Shia LaBeouf gets beat up a lot

    by Anthony Torchia

    The movie is worth seeing just for that :-) I love sharing Cannes in this review but he's only batting 100? Geez, 1 out of 10 films is good and he's only made three, the math makes my head hurt Or maybe it's the bourbon

  • May 19, 2012, 4:44 p.m. CST


    by Johnny Wrong

    ...would sell your own mothers for a night with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and don't even think of trying to deny it.

  • May 19, 2012, 4:54 p.m. CST

    The best trailer I saw with Avengers.

    by bat725

    But, they didn't show The Dark Knight Rises.

  • May 19, 2012, 4:56 p.m. CST

    Stopped reading when I saw the picture with Shia LaBeouf

    by Ricardo

    Okay. Pass.

  • May 19, 2012, 5:55 p.m. CST


    by Johnny Wrong're the sort of asshole who doesn't deserve cinema. Fuck off.

  • May 19, 2012, 6:37 p.m. CST

    The Proposition

    by Henry Fool one of my favorite films of all time. Danny Huston gave one of the most memorable villainous performances I've ever seen in a western. And Guy Pearce just seems to have a knack for picking projects that are destined to become film classics (L.A. Confidential, Memento). It's too bad he doesn't have much screen time in Prometheus.<br /> <br /> John Hillcoat seems like he was born for a career adapting Cormac McCarthy novels.

  • May 19, 2012, 7:06 p.m. CST

    Jessica Chastain...

    by Eric Shea

    is a goddess. You must all be looking at a different woman. And Maggie Gylenhall isn't butt ugly or anything, she's just one of the uglier women to be presented as a hot woman in Hollywood movies, like Kristen Stewart.

  • May 19, 2012, 7:24 p.m. CST

    looks like boardwalk empire ill watch it

    by and

  • May 19, 2012, 8:44 p.m. CST

    Guy Pearce is a fucking King

    by Mr Soze

  • May 19, 2012, 8:46 p.m. CST


    by Johnny Wrong

    ...are both WAY out of anyone's league posting on this board, let me tell you. WAY out.

  • May 19, 2012, 8:57 p.m. CST

    Johnny Wrong

    by Relentless85

    Yes they're out of our league as none of us are effeminate vampires or paranoid schizophrenic district attorneys

  • But she just has this sex appeal about her. Especially in Adventureland.

  • This is what you guys ALWAYS say for him, and yet he's always wonderfully mediocre or downright annoying (Transformers). Maybe there's a reason people don't like him. And don't say it's envy. If that's true then wouldn't people hate any young actor, or any actor at all?

  • May 20, 2012, 2:07 a.m. CST

    Sounds promising

    by Patch

    Can't wait to check this movie out...

  • May 20, 2012, 3:24 a.m. CST

    The Proposition was amazing

    by Richard L. Rhodes

    Only saw the Proposition last week.. It is utterly amazing. So I am looking forward to this one. Great cast....even with Shia

  • May 20, 2012, 4:53 a.m. CST


    by judderman

    Doing three movies for Michael Bay? I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out.

  • May 20, 2012, 7:41 a.m. CST

    There is nothing cool, manly or honorable

    by The Cheese Grommitt

    about ripping another persons appearance. Whether out in the open or hidden behind screen names. There's a lack of intelligence behind it a juvenile simpleness. Some how we think this passes for humor but it's devolution because we would not say this to there face and if you would then that's a WHOLE other coversation and evaluation. But if you witnessed some punk stand face to face with your wife, girlfriend, mother just calling them butt ugly, how would you feel? I know "Lighten up thecheesesgrommitt! Don't be such a puss" It's just weak and I would be embarressed if I typed such words about another human being.

  • May 20, 2012, 7:43 a.m. CST

    *edit button please!!!

    by The Cheese Grommitt

    Their NOT there

  • Another potentially great movie to add to what is shaping up to be a surprisingly terrific year for cinema.

  • May 20, 2012, 10:20 a.m. CST


    by Johnny Wrong

    ...suuuuuure you have.

  • May 20, 2012, 10:59 a.m. CST


    by GravyAkira

    I'll def give this a go when I can. Have to say Boardwalk Empire season 3 is far higher on my must watch list though. PROMETHEUS has almost landed!!!!!!!!!

  • May 20, 2012, 11:44 a.m. CST

    Wait, so now Jessica Chastain isn't hot?

    by brokentusk

    You all have terrible, terrible opinions.

  • May 20, 2012, 11:48 a.m. CST

    by brokentusk

    If a woman who looked like that asked most of you out, you wouldn't be able to get a word out, let alone accept. But please, continue to try and convince us otherwise.

  • May 20, 2012, 12:44 p.m. CST

    Looks sweet

    by Jonas

    I'm there. Oh, and also, stop trying convince us Maggie Gylenhaal is hot, she's busted. ScarJo makes her look like a pile of mess.

  • May 20, 2012, 1:12 p.m. CST

    cheesegromit, my buddy, I'll tell you why you're wrong here

    by ajit maholtra

    Talking about movie actresses appearances is different than talking about the neighbor girl. It is because these actresses are products. They are sold to the public as beautiful goddesses in order to sell movie tickets. It's like a company selling New flavored Coca cola and having flashy tv commercials to make people buy it. So this is no different than a consumer waking up and saying, wait a minute, this new coca cola tastes like shit no matter how fancy the can and the advertisements are.

  • May 20, 2012, 1:23 p.m. CST

    brokentusk - getting a word out

    by Kakii

    Yes thats true, but it would be because I wouldnt want to hurt her feelings etc in the way I turn her down! Yes I called her a ginger minger, however I only ever say nasty shit to peoples faces who deserve it. If their a nice person, I couldn't be mean to them. Plus theres only ever been one celeb that I was gobsmacked by, other than that I can always talk to rockstars, actors, TV stars etc no problem at all. I just think several people on here have still got their beer goggles on, in fact at least 2 pairs!

  • They are sold as products like Hubba Bubba chewing gum.

  • May 20, 2012, 3:21 p.m. CST

    Batting 100 is Incredibly Awful, Quint.

    by Bald Evil

    Add another zero to that to get the statement you were looking to make. :)

  • May 20, 2012, 5:03 p.m. CST

    Jeans and Sneakers

    by CherryValance

    Dude. Come on. Anyhow, I'm half looking forward to it. I'm most of the way through the book and it's written weird. He jumps around a lot in time. I hope the movie's in normal chronological order. It's like the author was trying to make it confusing in order to be mysterious. But it was just annoying.

  • May 20, 2012, 5:38 p.m. CST


    by The Cheese Grommitt

    Serial killers de-humanize their victims as well. I absolutely hate that SOME people believe they have rights to everything as a justification for their poor behavior. a) yes they (actors) put themselves out there. They do so because it's their passion, craft, job BUT only damaged people believe that they deserve ridicule or cruelty. What's the difference from coming to your job and ogling and making rude comments? Hey you were there doing your job you deserve it. THERE IS NO DEFENSE FOR BEING CRUEL period! b) "none of those BITCHES can act" you have no idea how damaged you are and others who think it's acceptable to refer to women casually as bitches. It seems to have worked it's way into the younger vernacular. It does not make you a man but it does devalue your mother, sister and girl friend. I know this seems SO serious on my part but you sicken me, that is all.

  • May 20, 2012, 7:37 p.m. CST


    by ajit maholtra

    I am a software engineer. If my work is not good, then my bosses are welcome to criticize me. But I am not selling my face and my ass. That is not my product. For female actresses, they do photo shoots wearing littke clothing, they are put on posters and magazines, and they are the product. Thats why most top actresses are there for looks and not ability. And when they do a casting call, their looks get criticized by the casting directors. Its part of the career. When Joker tells that lady, Youre beautiful, in Batman movie, she needs to look beautiful or else its weird.

  • May 20, 2012, 7:39 p.m. CST

    I will agree with you about something though

    by ajit maholtra

    It is wrong to objectify ladies. But Movie business is doing it. Im just commenting on it.

  • May 20, 2012, 9:57 p.m. CST

    To everyone commenting on the Batting 100 bit...

    by ThatEndDown

    I only have one thing to add: a proof-reader/editor would do this site a world of good. Actually, scratch that. There would never be another article posted on this site if that happened.

  • Despite a low budget, it is, to me, every bit as powerful and superb a film as The Proposition was. Regardless, anyone who can bring Ghosts of the Civil Dead, The Proposition and The Road to the screen pretty much has my ticket money for life from here on out. Along with Nolan's Dark Knight Rises and Scott's Prometheus, Hillcoat's Lawless is the only other must-see-no-matter-what film of the season for me. There are other films I want to see, but those are the only three I absolutely have to see.

  • May 20, 2012, 10:59 p.m. CST

    Cheese Grommit

    by Relentless85

    Your mother is a bitch. Your sister is a bitch. Your wife is a bitch. And if you have any daughters they're little bitches. Fuck you you faux feminist cock stain.

  • May 21, 2012, 1:46 a.m. CST

    "Batting 100?"

    by LuminousBeing

    You mean 1.000? 3-for-3? Because if he's batting "100," that's waaaay below the Mendoza line, and this guy needs to be sent down to Triple AAA to get some AB's and fix his swing. Also, if he's now 3-for-3, what's his line? Were those all singles? Or were they HR's?

  • May 21, 2012, 10:35 a.m. CST

    Not really

    by no-no

    The movie is entertaining enough but Shia is horrible and he sticks out, it looks like he's playing dress-up. Also the movie looks like something I've seen before (a thousand times).

  • Today at Cannes.

  • May 21, 2012, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Glad to see some love for 'The Road'

    by Plathismo

    I thought it was a terrific adaptation. People just didn't care for it because, oh wait, it's a pretty accurate rendition of the bleak source material.

  • May 21, 2012, 3:52 p.m. CST

    You guys are crazy. She was sexy in Tree of Life. (end sarcasm)

    by Tikidonkeypunch

  • May 21, 2012, 7:16 p.m. CST


    by The Cheese Grommitt

    Really that's your attempt at humor?!? Ooooh, look at the power behind your scathing words SUCH bravado! You so forcefully demeaned every female in my life (and yours which shows your utter lack of comprehension of my original post *sigh*) REALITY CHECK: You are a scared little anonymous boy. You are brave on this board and nowhere else. I want you to email me: so we can discuss this further privately. If we are lucky we live in the same state (but I travel a lot so don't worry) Shoot me an email when you're done wetting yourself little boy. The problem with kids today is there's just no darn respect. Which must be learned.

  • May 22, 2012, 1:01 p.m. CST

    shit just got real....

    by Ultron ver 2.0

    relentless is probably closing all the blinds in his parent's house......sphincter factor 9.6.

  • May 22, 2012, 9:33 p.m. CST

    Movie geeks + sports analogies

    by Teddy Artery

    = Certain disaster But the movie looks interesting.

  • Shame on you bastards for ignoring a perfectly good Frighteners reference. Bitches be slippin'.