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The Kidd Vs. LAWLESS


There’s just something missing with John Hillcoat’s LAWLESS. Maybe it’s joy… perhaps it’s fun… but there’s noticeably a lack of Wild West feel to this story of outlaws who live and thrive in a society where law and order are practically non-existent. There’s still plenty to sink you teeth into, mainly due to Tom Hardy and another standout performance by Dane DeHaan (CHRONICLE), but LAWLESS plays it a little too safely for my liking with its by-the-book approach to storytelling about a family of bootleggers.

Adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County in the World about his family’s hooch history during Prohibition, LAWLESS follows a trio of Bondurant brothers – Forrest (Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and the baby of the group Jack (Shia LaBeouf). They’re right at the heart of the budding moonshine business up in the hills of the Virginia countryside, but when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) is brought in from Chicago to make sure things “run smoothly” around those parts, it’s a matter of principle for Forrest to not give in and pay the shakedown money that’ll keep their operation undisturbed. Of course, this sets off a cat and mouse game between the Bondurants and Rakes, and when you’re watching the battle of wits and muscle unfold between Hardy and Pearce, the movie really hits. Here, you get to see two men willing to protect their interests at all costs, willing to go to the necessary lengths… it just so happens that their positions are at odds with one another.

Hardy’s Forrest is the most interesting of the brothers, with a lot of that credit going to Hardy’s subtle performance, but also to the story being told about this one particular character. He’s the patriarchal figure of this family, making the decisions for his other two brothers  - one who’s unreliable and the other who’s still very much a boy – but this isn’t the man he wants to be. He does it, because he has to… if he doesn’t, who will? He’ll protect what’s his, if called upon, but he’d very much like to just mind his own business and go on living his life without being bothered, or, for that matter, bothering anyone. He doesn’t go looking for trouble… trouble seems to find him, and, in the case of Rakes, it’s trouble that he’s not going to be able to dispose of easily, with one good brass-knuckled punch.

When you include Jessica Chastain as a city transplant in this laid-back country living, it adds yet another layer to Forrest Bondurant. This is the type of woman he’d never imagined would walk into his life, and now that she has, he has no idea what to do with her. He would like to be a better man for her, but, in order to do that, he’s fighting against his nature, what he is, to try to be that something more. Trying to do that when you’re at war with someone carrying a badge, in it for their own greed is a difficult proposition to follow through on. There’s not much to the Chastain character, except to be that light at the end of the tunnel for Forrest, but she brings enough to the picture to create that emotional bond between them that draws you into everything Forrest represents on a whole different level.


But that’s only about half of LAWLESS, with the other half focusing on Jack’s opportunity to step up for the family and become a man in his own right. As the younger brother, he’s always believed that not only could he do what Forrest has been doing, he could do it better, more efficiently and for a hell of a lot more money. He has the initiative and maybe some level of book smarts to make it work… but his maturity and street smarts are where he’s lacking, and you know it’s only going to lead to problems when the whiny runt of the family tries to take on more responsibility in place of his more seasoned brother.

It’s a story we’ve seen before, but Shia’s consistently annoying “I have initiative” on repeat doesn’t do anything for LAWLESS. If anything, the film takes a big step backwards in moving from Hardy to LaBeouf. Hardy brought mystery and intrigue as to where he might end up in both his internal conflict with himself and the external one with Pearce. LaBeouf does none of that, following a fairly predictable path towards resolution as his character progresses. A side story involving his courting of a preacher’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska) tries to throw some variety in for this gangster wannabe who thinks he’s got everything figured out, but that out of left field aspects never quite gels with the rest of the picture and, if anything, slows down its deliberate pace even more with scenes that don’t quite go anywhere in the overall scheme of things.


It’s only through Dane DeHaan as Jack’s best friend and partner in crime Cricket that LaBeouf’s performance doesn’t tumble into unbearable. It may be a small role but it’s incredibly pivotal in taking LAWLESS to the darker places it’s willing to go in order to establish the stakes between the Bondurants and Rakes. Cricket could have easily been the crippled kid who gets caught in the middle with his disability alone being used to get at you as he becomes a pawn in this war. But DeHaan attaches a general likeability to Cricket that you can’t help feel for him in the no-win situation that’s enveloped him. He’s not one of the brothers, as much as he’d like to be, but he’ll be treated like one by the opposition without so much as a second thought.

LAWLESS is a bit of a mixed bag for me. There’s enough here to recommend it, with Hardy carrying just about all of that goodwill on his own. But prepare yourself for the film to begin sliding about halfway through when it jumps into full Shia LeBeouf mode. That may be the natural progression of this family’s evolution, but it also makes for a weaker story.


-Billy Donnelly

"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"

Follow me on Twitter.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 29, 2012, 4:28 p.m. CST

    one to download

    by Rupee88

    no way I would pay to watch commercials at a theater before watching this one.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 4:28 p.m. CST

    So, DON'T see it then?

    by schadenfreudian

    Sounds like a rental...

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 4:29 p.m. CST

    As far as Cricket goes...

    by schadenfreudian

    is he a priest again, or still off the wagon?

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 4:42 p.m. CST

    The Proposition grants Hillcoat a pass in my book...

    by FannyPad

    Even if The Road was pretty 'meh'...

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Could it be the same thing lacking from all of his films?

    by brad negrotto

    I don't what it is. Hard to put a finger on it. Don't get me wrong, The Proposition was decent, and The Road was a step forward. But there is just something off about both of those movies.

  • The man is just too good. Made better by working from Nick Cave's scripts. And i think "The Road" was brillant. And so was "Ghosts Of The Civil Dead".

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:01 p.m. CST

    I felt the same way Kidd...

    by wormcheck

    about The Proposition and The Road; a constant lack of hope and joy which should permeate in all stories dealing with Mankind's perpetual internal and intraspecies conflict.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:12 p.m. CST

    Not enough JOY & FUN??!!

    by Sometimes_My_Arms_Bend_Back

    REALLY??! That sounds like something Harry would say! Surely joy & fun are the last things you'd expect from a Nick Cave screenplay. He's not exactly known for his comedy wisecracks, humorous anecdotes and silly characters. I don't remember anybody criticising "The Proposition" for not having enough JOY & FUN!!!

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:17 p.m. CST

    This "Kid Vs." thing got old like the 2nd time you used it

    by ShiftyEyedDog

    Now it just makes you seem like a total tool. Give it up.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:20 p.m. CST

    @Mr palefire

    by albert comin

    The off thing about John Hillcoat movies is that they are smarter and more poetically inclined then most movies made this days. Basically, they are not dumbed down enough.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:22 p.m. CST

    battle_royale... I BELIEVE THE MAN SAID...

    by Astronut

    There’s enough here to recommend it...

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:25 p.m. CST

    As usual, The Kiddd can't go three sentences without a typo...

    by milla jovovich

    got your journalism degree at the same school as Harry, did you?

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Everybody hates Shia, and he can't act.

    by Sam Lloyd


  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:40 p.m. CST


    by schadenfreudian

    Yeah, that's hardly a ringing endorsement. Sounds like a rental to me.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:44 p.m. CST

    Shia CAN act!

    by Acappellaman

    He just chooses some lousy movies sometimes. He's got chops, though. Just needs some more experience. In another ten years he'll be one of the top paying actors in Hollywood, and he'll deserve it. I guarantee it.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:47 p.m. CST

    What the heck do joy, hope and fun necessarily

    by Adam13

    have to do with anything? In the world or on film? They're there when they're there. Sheesh, that's a prescriptive formula that's going to dismiss more than half of the most interesting and challenging films out there.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 5:59 p.m. CST

    JOY and HOPE!!!

    by Richard

    Nolan Batman + more JOY and HOPE = Schumacher's Batman. sometimes joy and hope should be left out. I'll see this, no matter what the "critics" at AICN say. and I agree with those who say Shia can act, but has chosen bad roles. as much as I hate KOTCS, I think it did mark the point where Shia stopped "playing" Shia (and not a character) in all his movies.

  • TRIVIA FACT: LeBowf got his start playing the ghost in THREE MEN AND A BABY

  • shmeckle.

  • I don't think I have to remind anyone who much they hated DiCaprio until he started working with Scorsese. And even then he was still getting picked on. Shia will be no different. The Internet hates the young successful actor. What a shock... Oh, and this yet another mumble-mouth performance from Hardy.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 6:14 p.m. CST


    by Andrew

    Oh I'm sorry, is that NOT one of your names?

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 6:21 p.m. CST

    There was an actor named Guttenberg? I'm an '86 baby.

    by golden tribw

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 6:42 p.m. CST

    The Proposition: Best.Western.Ever.

    by Simpsonian

    In my humble opinion; not that anyone gives a fuck.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 6:43 p.m. CST

    The Kidd VS. The Art of Criticism

    by Clockwork Taxi

    No one will ever take you seriously if you keep this 'VS.' crap. It's sound advice you're being given, why don't you listen?

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 6:52 p.m. CST

    The Kidd is correct on this one

    by Logan_1973

    Remarkable performances by the cast, but the script had a lot of fat that could have been trimmed.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 7:19 p.m. CST

    So it's like Public Enemies then...

    by BeMoreFunny

    a great cast, with interesting characters from history, but just lacking something essential.

  • ... a dark, depressing, angst-riddled douche bag who has no good to offer anyone in this world? Someone who is so filled with self-doubt and regret about his life and what he has failed to accomplish that he feeds off of the misfortune of others to make himself feel better?? Really?

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 7:42 p.m. CST


    by BT

    ver·sus [-suhs, -suhz] - preposition 1. in opposition or contrast to

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 7:56 p.m. CST

    I don't see movies with The Beef in them.

    by Queefer Sutherland

    I HATE that guy. Can't stand him.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 8:05 p.m. CST

    I'll see it eventually . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . but there's been nothing beyond just knowing Hillcoat directed to get me at all enthused about it.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 8:10 p.m. CST

    this movie is freaking AMAZING

    by drave117

    Definitely in my top five for the year, even without Tom Hardy's best performance to date. You thought Bane was an ornery sumbitch? He's got nuthin' on Forrest Bondurant. Hardy absolutely OWNS the screen every second he's on it. He prowls through the movie like a panther; claws flexing, eyes flashing, tail twitching. I have never in my life seen such a quiet character radiate such a "Do. Not. Fuck. With. Me." vibe. He is absolutely riveting. He does more here with a slight "Hmph." and no change in facial expression than most actors do with an Oscar-worthy monolog.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 8:15 p.m. CST

    and for you Shia haters, [MINOR SPOILER]

    by drave117

    You should all go see it because there is a fairly early scene where he gets beaten to within an inch of his life. You all can pretend it's his penance for Transformers.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 8:21 p.m. CST

    Does anyone actually like movies anymore?

    by CherryValance

    I mean besides me. I keep reading article after article on movie after movie where everything is flawed or sucked or wasn't done the way the writer wanted it. Blah blah blah. Learn to enjoy something for once. There is nothing wrong with this movie. People who like movies like it, should like this one, and like it a great deal. All the performances were great, including Shia LaBeouf. The reason why stories are told the same way most of the time is because it works. If you like Bonnie and Clyde or Legends of the Fall or even Scarface you'll probably like this. It's got gangsters and villains, tommy guns, preachers, and a fantastic shootout. I really honestly don't know what kind of movies most people want to see nowadays if everything is considered so sub par.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 8:28 p.m. CST

    Yelch. Another lukerwarm review from this hipster douchebag.

    by YourMomsBoxReturns

    Go drink a PBR and play B sides from the Tragic Kingdom album. Spend an hour making it look like it took you 10 minutes to get dressed too, motherfucker.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 9:03 p.m. CST

    Just got back. This movie is awesome.

    by Clabog592

    Completely disagree with your opening lines here, Kidd. Definitely one of the most satisfying movies of the year, and it IS a lot of fun. Also, Guy Pearce is off the charts good. Probably the best I've ever seen him.

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 9:34 p.m. CST

    shia laboef ya

    by qwsdqwedq sdbcjhdwiuvdh

    he cant act dats fer sure. in every movie, he plays shia laboef. he does a good job playing himself. when u c him u dont say there's that movie's character, u say dats shia laboef

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 9:47 p.m. CST


    by Margot Tenenbaum


  • Aug. 29, 2012, 9:51 p.m. CST

    I hope Shia LaBbueff ends up in superhero porno parodies with Chyna.

    by Margot Tenenbaum

    I hope he ends up on Celebrity Survivor and gets voted off before Jane Wiedlin does.

  • This was a good movie

  • Aug. 29, 2012, 11:33 p.m. CST


    by misterfurly

    for including a pic of Laboof looking stupid as ever with a shotgun. he reminds me of a dork version of the "entourage " actor. just a young hollywood "it" guy that has a seriously limited range. i don't mind him playing fast talking teens but anything else and he just lacks the depth and charisma of better actors. to the guy that says AICN peeps hate young actors- what a moronic statement. young sean penn was great young damon was good--theres just a shitload of bad actors young or old. i think jeremy tenner is ok but you can see the hollywood machine trying to make these guys stars when they just don't have what it takes. good leading men are hard to find. the paul newmans the harrison fords---ben affleck was another failed leading man as will be Shia--these guys are ok character actors--hollywood shoving them down our throats as "stars" and leads only lasts so long before movies are no longer green lit with them as leads. a guy brought up guttenberg- good point -at one time he was big but his "so so" talent ended up putting him where he belongs- i.e. not a marquee name. laboof doesn't have long--he's just coasting in franchises people don't go because of him. i find his look and energy to be fucking obnoxious, and I'm not alone

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 12:53 a.m. CST

    Why does anyone give a fuck if the Kidd uses "VS" in his title line?

    by SuperSaiyan2112

    You fuckers will bitch about anything nowadays, I swear. I don't know why I keep coming here now.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 2:18 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to see this


  • Aug. 30, 2012, 3:09 a.m. CST

    Lawless was a disappointment for me

    by Winston Smith

    GREAT first 45 minutes, and then slowly goes downhill. By the end it had lost me. And I know I'm just a "hater" in the eyes of the interwebs, but Shia is one of the few actors I truly don't like. I just don't like his persona, and despite playing a variety of characters his ticks and mannerisms remain the same. He gives the best performance I've ever seen him give for the first 45 minutes, but then he becomes Shia. Hardy is great, but not so much that he can fix a script that veers into by the numbers territory, and Oldman (maybe my favorite actor of all time along with Peter O'Toole) is barely in this.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 4:08 a.m. CST

    The Propostion was boring as hell

    by jah_kingdom

    I like slow burn movies. "The Passenger," and "Le Samouraï ," being a few of my Favorites. And I'll watch any Tarchovsky film with pleasure but John Hillcoat is the new James Gray. But Hilcoat's films all have a detatched from humanity feel that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. I'll say "Ghosts Of The Civil Dead" was decent. And "The Road," was good but I thought that had a lot to do with Viggio's performance.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 4:09 a.m. CST

    @Mr simpsonian

    by albert comin

    For all it's worth, i do give a fuck. And there will be no disagreement from me by naming "The Proposition" as the best western ever (even though it's set in Australia). Any list that features the best westerns ever made, "The Proposition" belongs there.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 4:15 a.m. CST

    @Mr jah_kingdom

    by albert comin

    I found "The Proposition" to be an highly humanistic movie, probably one of the most humanistic movies i ever seen. Characters who in other movies would be complete monsters in the movie they all are given characterization moments where they are portaited as human beings in all it's inherent frailties. Everybody is treated as a human being, despite their actions. Or because of their actions. And the ending always kills me in it's emotional impact. I'm a brother myself, and that ending for me rings so true, Nick Cave's script, Hillcoat's direction and the top acting of Danny Huston and Guy Pierce cut to the bone of the truth about sibling love. Few movies give me such an emotional gutpunch as the ending of "The Proposition" delivers. As far i'm concern, that movie is perfect.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 4:17 a.m. CST

    @Mr christian_bale_trashed_my_lights

    by albert comin

    You nick made me bust a gut from laughing so hard. It was painful, but it was worth it. Thank you.

  • ???

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 5:34 a.m. CST

    @Mr modtel

    by albert comin

    Worst, there is little mention of Jessica Chastain or Mia Wasikowska. I mean, a movie has those two beauties and he barely mentions of them? The Kidd only really noticed the men? How peculiar.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 5:40 a.m. CST

    The "Kidd Vs" shouldn't be anything to be aggravated or upset about.

    by albert comin

    It's just his stitch. It's his way to be unique. what is wrong with that? Nothing, in my view. Also, much has been said about The Kidd mostly focusing on movies he has negative opinions of. Again, that shouldn't be much of a cause for upset. It's a stitch as well. So what if a reviewer decides to constuct a persona and focus his reviews on what he perceives as bad movies? What of it? Besides, it's not like he hasn't reason to dislike most movies he watches, because the majority of the movies released recently are hardly great, specially those of the blockbuster kind. The thing we should worry is not if The Kidd dislikes most movies being released, but if he's fair in his dislike and if the review is good and thoughful. That's for me what the real issue should be about. For instance, i think The Kidd's review of "Cosmopolis" is quite off the mark. It's not that he disliked the movie that's the issue, but the reasons why.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 6:06 a.m. CST

    its his stitch????

    by myfatarse

    I think you mean schtick and I think what most people object to is the fact that the Kidd really doesnt seem to be observant enough to give a considered review of any movie. Some of the things he says in his reviews raise doubt as to whether he can mentally assess anything more complicated than an episode of sesame street.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 7:47 a.m. CST


    by albert comin

    Yes, that's it. "Schtick" was what i was ment to wrote. Unforgivable mistake. Thank you for your correction, good sir. Usually The Kidd's reviews don't bother me much, i can understand what he is trying to say (agreeing is an entire diffferent matter). But his review of "Cosmopolis" really triggered in me a much stronger response then any of his other reviews. Suffice to say, i did not agreed with him much at all. I'm so bold as to say The Kidd was dead wrong about that movie.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 7:48 a.m. CST

    Where are my manners? It's "@Mr myfatarse"

    by albert comin


  • Aug. 30, 2012, 9:10 a.m. CST

    modtel and scirocco

    by Logan_1973

    Oldman is in the film for like 5 minutes; its like an extended cameo. And Mia and Jessica, while both very good, have little impact on the overall story. Like I said, it suffers from a bad script.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Lawless is really good but Shia pretty much brings it back to the ground

    by Andrew Coleman

    He stands out in this movie and not in a good way. I get people like him because of whatever reason they have but he is a terrible actor. He was pushed hard in the industry through connections. He landed roles in big movies and so he got the "star" label. Problem is he has no range. Spielberg demanded he be in Indy 4 and it made no sense. Shia looks nothing like Ford and he just didn't work. This movie is strong and I had fun, that was until Shia took a lot of the screen time. I never once bought his performance. I really hope he stays away from historical movies or anything set in a different time from here on. He was really terrible.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 10:58 a.m. CST

    Nick Cave and bad script? Does not compute.

    by albert comin

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 11:36 a.m. CST


    by big_dicks_cum_from_small_beginnings

    And I don't blame him. So much shit out there it's unbelievable. Anyways I think the lack of a Wild West feel is probably due to the casting of 2 Brits and a Jew as the leads.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 11:49 a.m. CST

    The Kidd has horrible taste in film.

    by azguki

    Lawless is one of the best films of the year. Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, and Tom Hardy are all in top form here. Jason Clarke and Noah Taylor also add some seriously eerie, time-period flavor. Jessica Chastain and Mia Whasticossoiski are gorgeous and light up the screen. Even Shia has a couple of good moments (and a couple of mediocre ones). Nick Cave crushes the script and the music. The pacing is magnificent. The ending is both riveting, suspenseful, and even humorous (in all the right ways). I think this is the last "The Kidd" review I'll ever click on.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    66% on RT

    by Logan_1973

    IM not always in agreement with Kidd, but this time he's in the right.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 7:45 p.m. CST

    lack of a wild west feel

    by drave117

    Might have more to do with it being a) set in Virgina b) during Prohibition and c) not a western.

  • Aug. 30, 2012, 8:33 p.m. CST

    Shia could beat all your asses!!!

    by Jake

    He's the man

  • Aug. 31, 2012, 4:22 a.m. CST

    @Mr spclk32

    by albert comin

    So you mean we are all pithier then a fat drunk canadian. Ok then.