Lawless preview last night at the Curzon in Soho. At John [Hillcoat]’s insistence they screened the 35mm print (£4,000 against the £60 for the now ubiquitous digital copy which they insisted using at Cannes), which was a treat.
Based on Matt Bondurant’s family memoir The Wettest County in the World, this movie is about the bond between three brothers in bootleg-era Virginia. Some reviews have focused on the violence, the star cast and the look, but the essence for me is the tenderness, protection and vulnerability of the central characters in a context where weakness means servitude or death.
This is a great movie.
Tom Hardy’s Forest Bondurant has commanding presence, engaging our empathy more than any other character. Some of my companions were less convinced by Shia Leboeuf, whose narrative viewpoint carried the story, but to me he was the point of the story: a sensitive boy who had to succeed in a brutalised world. The greatest risk was letting Guy Pearce play Charlie Rakes as an affected city slicker psychopath rather than the power-mad rural deputy in the book. It says something for the relationship that’s developed over the years between Pearce, Hillcoat and screenplay writer Nick Cave that they went with the actor’s crazy idea. And he pulled it off.
Quibbles there are none, beyond surprise at the rapid recovery of Forest’s vocal chords after his throat was slit from ear to ear, and a sense that Rakes got off too lightly with a relatively linger-free death: surely a blown off limb followed by fearful certainty of impending fate and a gruesome explosion of the skull would have been more in order. But get it he did, the Bondurants settled into legitimate, peaceful and even happy family life, and so, in the end all, is well.