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.
Disney, Miramax Take Spat Outside
Miramax Films and parent company The Walt Disney Co. have made it clear they are looking to renegotiate their contract, The Associated Press reports. Miramax's current deal expires in 2009, but an option in the contract allows Disney to renegotiate the relationship in 2005. At issue, according to AP sources, is Disney's desire to pay Miramax founders, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, less money and to impose caps on exploding budgets at Miramax. Last week, Eisner said Disney has no plans to sell Miramax, but he added that the studio had been unprofitable in three of the past five years. AP reports this prompted a strong denial from Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik, who said the studio was making money, as evidenced by Disney paying a bonus to the Weinsteins that was predicated on Miramax turning a profit. "If Disney thinks Miramax is so unprofitable, Bob and Harvey would be happy to buy it back if Disney names the price," Hiltzik told AP.
Gibson Sues Over Passion Box Office Gross
Mel Gibson's company, Icon Distribution Inc., has sued movie theater chain Regal Entertainment Group for more than $40 million, claiming Regal failed to pay Icon its fair share of box office receipts for The Passion of the Christ, Reuters reports. In the suit, filed on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Icon said its agreement with Regal called for the companies to share receipts on "studio terms," which Icon defined as 55 percent of gross ticket sales paid to it and 45 percent retained by Regal. Icon claims Regal has reneged on that deal and offered to pay Icon only 34 percent, instead, Reuters reports. The Passion has grossed nearly $370 million domestically.
Bootlegged Soul Plane Blamed for Poor Box Office
The critically panned comedy Soul Plane may have bombed at the box office but the film hit big on the black market. Variety reports that as early as April, illegal and very high quality DVD and VHS copies of the film were so widely available among street vendors that some involved with the film blame its poor box office performance on bootleggers. "We're the first movie that can demonstrate a direct relationship between digital piracy and box office sales," Plane's producer David Scott Rubin told Variety. "Even if the movie isn't any good, if a movie is out on the streets for two months with your core audience, the word of mouth works against you." The FBI is said to be investigating how Soul Plane was hijacked, though the agency, citing normal policy, would not confirm or deny a probe, Variety reports.
Date With Bridget Sequel Changed
Universal Pictures and Miramax Films, which co-financed the sequel Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, have changed the release date and distributor of the film. Universal will now distribute the film, in which Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth reprise their roles, and will open the film Nov. 19. Variety reports both studios attributed the distribution shift to the fact that Universal had more opportunities, while Miramax's slate got full suddenly with Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
FCC Settles With Clear Channel
The Federal Communications Commission has reached a $1.75 million settlement with Clear Channel Communications to resolve a number of indecency complaints against radio shock jock Howard Stern and other radio personalities, the AP reports. The agreement settles fines proposed by the agency against Clear Channel for sexually explicit remarks Stern made on New York City-based radio in an April 2003 broadcast. A source told the AP the deal also covers 10 open investigations and some 25 pending cases stemming from listener complaints lodged against shows on Clear Channel stations. Clear Channel has since removed Stern from the six of its 1,200-plus stations.
Role Call: Mortensen Gets Lesson on Violence, Vanilla Sky Sequel in Works, Final Destination 3 On the Way
Viggo Mortensen is in negotiations to star in New Line Cinema's A History of Violence for director David Cronenberg. The film, based on John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel of the same name, is about an ordinary family's life after the father receives unwanted national attention for a seemingly vigilante-style self-defense killing at his diner. Mortensen would play the father … Judy Greer and Paul Schneider have signed on for roles in Cameron Crowe's follow-up to 2001's Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown. The Paramount Pictures project already stars Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon and Jessica Biel … New Line Cinema has greenlighted Final Destination 3, reuniting the studio with franchise creators Glen Morgan and James Wong. Wong directed the original film, which he wrote with Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick, in 2000. While the third installment is expected to continue in a similar vein as its two predecessors, Morgan and Wong have not yet revealed their take on this sequel.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.