LAWLESS (2012, John Hillcoat): 5/10
Guy Pearce should always play the heavy. In LAWLESS, he’s cruel, careless, confident, and communicates through his voice the very definition of villain. It’s my favorite performance of his since MEMENTO. Unfortunately, he’s on screen far too little, as Hillcoat turns his camera the rest of the time towards leafless trees, sunlit dirt roads, Jessica Chastain’s wordless stare, and Shai LaBeouf — who isn’t terrible, but doesn’t really have enough burning charisma to carry this ultra-thin story. I haven’t cared so little about a Prohibition-era gangster film ever. At times this thing is so boring it makes Boardwalk Empire look like THE UNTOUCHABLES.
No amount of brothers sweating and urging each other to take moral stands is enough to convince me that it matters. I just couldn’t give a shit. Which is too bad, because there are touches here that verge on poetry — in one instance, Hillcoat drops in a gorgeous female-voiced cover of Grandaddy’s “So You’ll Aim Toward the Sky” (listen to the original here), after a surprising burst of on-screen violence, that caught me really off guard (I’d been hearing folksy bluegrass-rock and period music the whole film, then all of a sudden I’m shocked back to the year 2000, remembering one of my favorite indie rock records of all time) but works perfectly.
Unfortunately, the characters are all half-assed, leaning on the crutch of this being a true story to substantiate their worth. Nick Cave’s script fails to support some game supporting performances from Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hardy, and Gary Oldman is playing a guy who seemingly left 80% of his character on the cutting room floor. I’ve been home from the movie theater for about an hour and a half, and I’ve already forgotten most of LAWLESS. More like WEIGHTLESS, am I right?