This week Lawless landed at the Cannes Film Festival, and to my utter dismay and disbelief, it wasn’t heralded as the great film I believed it to be. Critics seem almost equally split, judging by the reviews the film has gathered so far, some celebrating John Hillcoat’s surprisingly slow-burning prohibition western, and others pointing out its flaws and lack of innovation.
Picking through the reviews that awarded unfavourable scores, it’s clear where the perceived problems lie, including muddled narrative and uneven pace and that afore-mentioned lack of innovation – but those are not opinions I can share. The pacing feels appropriate for the moon-shine soaked Bondurant community, the narrative more invested in the characters than in their actions (which of course sits at odds with the gangster flick elements) and the lack of innovation is of little consequence, as I will come to qualify.
It is by no means a flawless film, with an unfortunate, but somewhat understandable lack of feminine balance (but then judging something in modern post-emancipation terms is a redundant idea anyway), and a few other less forgiveable blemishes, but I take issue personally with any review that slates the film in such ribald terms as the poorest scored reviews offered.
And while I respect the opinions of all film fans and those who call themselves critics, it is my opinion that Lawless is one of the finest, and certainly one of the most enjoyable films of the year, and as it is one of those films that I feel deserves to be shared and enjoyed long after the screening ends, here I present my thoughts on why you should love Lawless as much as I did…
1. Tom Hardy’s Presence
Who would have thought that a cardiganed hulk of a man with very few words of dialogue and a tendency towards brutal and extremely graphic violence would be one of the most compelling matriarch characters of the year? Well, add man of the moment Tom Hardy into that formula and you have every explanation you’ll ever need for the character’s success.
The fact that Hardy brings his character to life despite his sparse dialogue and tendency to grunt, almost comically at times when a few simple words would suffice is testament to his presence on-screen, and the way he can convincingly act without doing much at all. Hardy has the kind of disarming charm that made him the ideal option for both Bane and Forrest Bondurant, but in contrast to his Dark Knight Rises performance, Hardy is far more on display here, and isn’t forced to over-act to overcome his costume. He can say more with a look than in ten lines of dialogue, offering an intriguing unspoken insight into the more complex underbelly of the character without having to be blatant about it, and it gives Forrest a hugely likeable edge.
This article was first posted on May 26, 2012