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.
More than 800 000 people disappear off the streets every year. In Captivity it's a top fashion model Jennifer Tree (Elisha Cuthbert) who falls prey to a sadistic mind capable of many creepy ways of torturing her both physically and mentally. It turns out this guy Ben (Pruitt Taylor-Vince) has been watching her long before he drugs and kidnaps her. As he puts her in a dank and dark cell she learns that he has kept a close eye on her personal life and has been in her apartment many times. The only thing keeping her sane is her friendship with a young guy named Gary (Daniel Gillies) who's being held in the cell next to her. But little comfort that is. After being strapped to a table and tortured with worms rats gas and other devices Jennifer is forced to drink down an eyeball shake. Things go downhill from there. Poor Elisha Cuthbert. You would think she would have had her fill with being kidnapped after playing Kim Bauer in her breakout role in 24. The model is snatched so quickly and so early in the film it's hard to develop any sympathy for her but even still she doesn't seem like she deserves much. In fact all Cuthbert really does is scream. She hugs her teddy bear for some emotional thumb-sucking moments but most of the time she just screams. Pruitt Taylor-Vince is always creepy even when playing a sympathetic character (he has that roving eye thing) while Gillies is handsome in that kind of greasy grungy way but a far stretch from the hero type. It would be nice if someone anyone could be even remotely sympathetic in Captivity beside the dog. Perhaps the teddy bear—and the rat. Director Roland Joffe has done some decent movies. He trotted Patrick Swayze to Calcutta for City of Joy and Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro to the Amazon in The Mission. He even got an Academy nomination directing his first feature film The Killing Fields. The question is: What happened? Captivity is a mess beginning with a nonsensical plot and ending with a twist you can figure out 10 minutes into it and may even be obvious after watching the trailer. The film is also unusually light on gore (except for the eyeball smoothie) and boring two things you definitely don’t want if you’re trying to make a horror film. Unfortunately Captivity will be remembered more for its controversial billboard campaign which had to be toned down more than anything else.