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.
S10E33: This was the day we all saw coming, the day Jacob Lusk left American Idol. While I thought he would have gone home long before fellow cast-off Casey Abrams (who I think should have been in the top three at the very least, if not the top spot), I knew this day would come. Jacob is very, very talented, but the truth is that as great as his voice is, it simply doesn't have a place in mainstream music. He could be very successful as a jazz singer, but not as one who's supposed to sell out stadiums and that's who Idol looks to crown.
Before we get to Jacob's swan song, I have to make my piece with Fox, who in lieu of actual content now that there are only a handful of contestants left shoved Chef Gordon Ramsay down our throats so we'd watch Hell's Kitchen and later did the same with Jennifer Lopez's new album. Talk about some shameless self-promotion. The chef thing was just so weird. It came out of left field and was such obvious cross-promotion that it's almost insulting, but the Lopez performance was stranger. She's become so much of a maternal or teacher-like figure as a judge that seeing her get up on stage in MC Hammer pants and a fringe belly shirt and shake around on the floor with Pitbull was like those weird moments when you see your English teacher out on a date or really anywhere else outside of school. It's weird. It's uncomfortable. It feels unnatural. Not to mention the fact that I'd give JLo the same criticisms I've been giving James: all show, little substance. That's not good when you're supposed to be the teacher. While eliminations are really becoming painful at this point, I was almost looking forward to them after that.
When it came down to it, we found Scotty McCreery, James Durbin and Haley Reinhart were safe. By this point, we know I'm not the biggest James fan. I still think America must have a hearing problem or something because the guy's voice just isn't pleasant -- and that's putting it lightly. On the flip side, I am thrilled to see that Haley wasn't on the chopping block. It seems that her risk (performing that unreleased Lady Gaga song) paid off just like Jimmy Iovine (and I) hoped it would and she's jumped from a straggler to a front-runner. Unfortunately that means that Lauren Alaina and Jacob were in the bottom two. We knew it would be Jacob, but I don't think it would have been a shock if it was Lauren. I adore the girl and she really had a moment on Wednesday night, but with folks like Scotty and Haley and the inexplicably unstoppable James, I doubt she's got a chance.
For his final performance, Jacob went with the man he'd been compared to all season: Luther Vandross. He slayed the performance of "A House is Not a Home" and I think he made us all a little more upset that he'd be leaving. I hope he finds some success as a jazz singer, because he truly does have an amazing voice.