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Review of official selection film "Lawless"



I saw "Lawless" last night at La Licorne theatre in Cannes La Boca. Directed by John Hillcoat, "Lawless" is an official selection film in the Cannes Film Festival. While the film was captivating and kept you turning your head in fear, and disgust, throughout, it left you feeling little for it and thinking nothing of it. Lawless is based on the Bondurant brothers, who lived in Franklin Country, Virginia during the Depression. The Bondurant brothers were bootleggers who ran illicit liquor during the prohibition era and battled with corrupt officials looking to make money off of their business. Thus the film is scene after scene of bloody shootouts, with a splash of romance.

The film does little to help the audience understand the life of a bootlegger or even of the Bondurant brothers, but jumps from one bloody battle with corrupt cops to the next. A review from “The Guardian” puts it very well, saying “it's basically a smug, empty exercise in macho-sentimental violence in which we are apparently expected to root for the lovable good ol' boys, as they mumble, shoot, punch and stab.” And what does this leave you with at the end? You clap for the “good ol’ guys” and then you forget them. There’s nothing left to ponder.  

You may forget what the film is about, but you’ll remember the winning performances of Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Shia Labeouf, Mia Wasikowska and Gary Oldman. The cinematography of the film is impressive, as blood flies, rugged men fight, and beautiful women swoon. A review from “The Wrap” says “it's more than engaging watching these actors work together, in those costumes, those sets, that scenery.  Here we get to see a real production at work, and that alone sets “Lawless” apart here in Cannes.”

John Hillcoat brought to screen the bloodiness of the illicit moonshine business and a film that will no doubt do well in America; but blood and gore will not will the Palme d’Or. If you’re a fan of shootouts, I suggest the film to you, but be aware of the empty feeling it will leave you with.

Written by Lillian Schrock 


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