Lawless is based on the real-life Bondurant brothers, whose story was fictionalized in Matt Bondurant’s best-selling novel The Wettest County in the World, inspired by family lore about his grandfather Jack and his two grand-uncles. Not having read the book, I don’t know if Bondurant asks his readers to swallow the idea of a worldly young woman from Chicago seeking refuge from the big, bad city—in backwoods Virginia. Fortunately, Jessica Chastain gives this improbable character some degree of credibility. Mia Wasikowska is more readily believable as a churchgoing girl who’s lured away from her strict father by a love-struck Shia LaBeouf.
Aussie director John Hillcoat has called upon his Proposition collaborator Nick Cave to write the screenplay and provide songs (with Warren Ellis) and a mournful background score. The music is a good fit for the vivid look of the picture, shot by Benoit Delhomme on location in Georgia. But the writing is wildly uneven, fleshing out some characters and leaving others as cyphers.
With so many strong ingredients, including a powerhouse cast, Lawless should have hit the bull’s-eye; instead, it’s a near-miss.
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