There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
The first thing you notice about Jonah Hex is the fact that you can make a drinking game out of people saying the words "Jonah Hex." It happens so often I began to believe that this was simply how people used to greet one another in the Old West. You walk into a room: “Jonah Hex!” “Well Jonah Hex to you too buddy!” Take a bottle of whiskey with you into the movie* and take a shot every time someone says his name and you will have an incredible 74 minutes. You might also be dead at the end.
Why does it feel like I’m dedicating half the review to the use of the words "Jonah Hex?" Because half the movie is dedicated to uttering the words "Jonah Hex." Learn to love the sound of it. Josh Brolin sure did.
When our ‘hero’ (and I use that word in the loosest of possible terms) isn’t busy having people remind him of his name he is riding around killing people or being made fun of for his horribly scarred face. But when a villain from his past – and when I say "past " I mean from 10 minutes earlier in the film – turns out not to be as dead as we were led to believe in the opening monologue Hex sets out to get the revenge he really wish he could have gotten 15 minutes earlier. And that’s when the movie beings its plunge into logical implausibility. If you can find a single reason to give a rat's *** about anyone in this movie grip onto it with both hands brother and hold on tight – it’s the only way you’re going to care at all about this film.
It’s not the horse with side-mounted Gatling guns that got me or the silliness of dynamite crossbows; it was just how unlikable everyone was and how it leaned heavily upon cliché to tell a story without understanding how a story like this is supposed to be told. Revenge films are like romantic comedies: They rely entirely on a weak coincidence and delivering a series of emotional money shots that pay off for the audience in a big way. More importantly these money shots must be delivered in a very specific structure that allows people to forgive any thin or contrived story elements. Where a romantic comedy is "Boy Meets Girl Boy Loses Girl Boy gets Girl Back " revenge films are mostly comprised of "Guy Finds Simple Bliss Bad Guy Ruins Simple Bliss in a Cruel Manner Guy Left for Dead Guy Gets Revenge for All He’s Lost." Very simple stuff. Whether it’s Maximus in Gladitor or Eric Draven in The Crow or Charles Rane in Rolling Thunder the structure is the same. The key to a good revenge movie is a likable good guy a reason to care about his life truly despicable bad guys and a perfectly crafted ending for our hero in particular – often involving his death.
Right from the start Jonah Hex drops the ball. We open with him tied up and getting wailed on watching his family get murdered just out of frame and then get left for dead. But we haven’t found anything to care for yet and more importantly he immediately admits to having done everything he’s been accused of. This is revenge to begin with. Sure the movie eventually gets around to trying to explain why he didn’t really deserve it but only after 45 minutes of us pretty much disliking the guy. He’s mean unlikable murderous and his only friend in the world is a prostitute who tells us that she “Don’t play house ” just before begging Jonah to settle down with her. He’s got a great horse and a dog but doesn’t like them enough to have ever given them a name and every time someone finally gets around to killing him magical Native Americans show up to save his bacon AGAIN for no apparent reason other than his wife was Native American.
The only reason to root for Jonah at all is because he’s the protagonist and his antagonist (played comically by John Malkovich) is on a mission to I kid you not destroy America with a semi-magical nation-destroying weapon. Oh yes and we’re told the Mexicans call him “Terrorista.” A Terrorist hellbent on destroying America? In the Old West? You’d be hard pressed to find anyone you wouldn’t root for fighting that guy. This had all the hallmarks of being a WWE movie without the cool logo. If you’re 13 years old and you still believe wrestling is real this might be the movie for you. Otherwise it is an exercise in silliness designed to rob you of $10.
*Hollywood.com accepts no responsibility to cirrhosis of the liver or any sudden death caused by ingestion of alcohol occurring during the course of this game.
August 28, 2002 12:15pm EST
Michael Jackson's friend and confidant Gary Pudney tells Access Hollywood that he and "The Gloved One" are working on a feature film about Edgar Allen Poe. The pop oddity plans to star as the father of suspense writing in The Nightmare of Edgar Allen Poe and is reportedly getting acting tips from his eccentric friends Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. Still in the early development stage, the film is about the last days of Poe's life. Pudney said he and Jackson are working to get a producer for the project.
Jerry Seinfeld and his wife, Jessica Sklar, are expecting their second child, due early next spring, a spokesman for the comedian tells People.com. The couple already has a daughter, Sascha, born in November 2000. Seinfeld has reportedly succumbed to incorporating parenting into his stand-up comedy routine and earlier this year announced plans to publish a children's Halloween book, due out this September.
One-time Baywatch babe Yasmine Bleeth tied the knot this weekend with her boyfriend Paul Cerrito at the exclusive Bacara resort in California, according to People.com. Bleeth and Cerrito, you may recall, were both arrested last September in Michigan after police found cocaine in her purse while investigating a car accident. The two apparently met at the Malibu rehab facility Promises prior their arrest.
Actress Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane in the late '70s and early '80s Superman movies, is recovering from a broken pelvis she suffered in a weekend highway accident in Belfast, Maine, The Associated Press reports. Kidder's GMC Yukon rolled over several times after hitting some raised pavement. The 53-year-old actress was headed to Montreal when the accident occurred.
Judge Lloyd Nash granted more time Tuesday to actor Robert Blake and his bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, to prepare their defense against charges in the murder of the actor's wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, the AP reports. The judge, however, set a preliminary hearing date of Nov. 13 and declared it unchangeable. Blake is being held without bail in the shooting death of Bakley. He also is charged with solicitation of murder and conspiracy and faces a special-circumstance allegation of lying in wait. Caldwell is charged with a single count of conspiracy to murder and is free on $1 million bail that Blake posted.
Hollywood screenwriter Dean Riesner died Aug. 18 of natural causes at his Encino, Calif., home at the age of 83, Reuters reports. Riesner, a one-time child actor, came up with Clint Eastwood's all-time great lines "Do you feel lucky, punk?" and "Go ahead, make my day." Riesner is survived by several nieces and nephews.
TV writer Robert Dellinger sued Nicolas Cage and five companies behind the as-yet-unreleased feature film Sonny Tuesday for copyright infringement, Variety reports. The defendants include Intermedia, Gold Circle Films and its subsidiary Vortex Pictures, Pony Rides and Cage's production company Saturn Films, as well as Cage, screenwriter John Carlen and Vortex executive Paul Brooks. Dellinger said he and Carlen collaborated on several scripts, including the ideas behind the Sonny project, while they were serving time at Terminal Island federal prison in Los Angeles in the 1970s. The suit seeks $2 million in damages and the prevention of the picture's sale overseas.
The Walt Disney Co. is teaming up with Ice Cube for a sports-themed comedy feature film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ice Cube wrote De-Fense and will produce the movie through his Cube Vision company with his partner Matt Alvarez, along with Disney-based Gunn Films and Andrew Gunn. De-Fense is described as a Bad News Bears set in the world of football.
Actress/singer Jennifer Love Hewitt will host the third annual Women Rock! Girls & Guitars concert at the Kodak Theatre on Oct. 10. The event, part of Lifetime Television's public awareness campaign "Stop Breast Cancer for Life," will feature a musical performance by Hewitt, whose fourth album is due out in September. The concert will air Oct. 25.