'Lawless': Take Me to the Backwoods Now

American moonshine goes Hollywood

Yet the film does achieve moments that etch into the mind—an attempted assassination in which feathery snow and steaming blood mingle, for one—but the narrative often seems at odds with Hillcoat's pictorialism, trudging when it should be striding toward the climax, isolating the performers on their marks when everything depends on taut blood ties' interconnection. The cumulative effect of the Depression mosaic is, then, less than the sum of its parts, but Lawless does give one clear lesson: Despite the acts of startling violence herein, the mortal sin is vanity—clothes unmake the man. Too often, though, they also upstage him.

Cue the banjoes
Cue the banjoes


Lawless was directed by John Hillcoat; written by Nick Cave; and stars Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke. Rated R. Click here for show times and theaters.

This review appeared in print as "Hillbillies vs. Peacocks: In the Prohibition drama Lawless, looks trump drama."

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