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.
MTV kick-starts another spanking new season of "The Real World" on Tuesday. But besides the where (New Orleans), the who (see next graph) and the what (the roommates are supposedly asked to put together a public access TV show), the music channel has been decidedly tight-lipped about the ninth edition of the real-life soap. ROOMIE #1: Danny What we do know about the cast is this: There's the egomaniacal Ivy League alum Jamie (the cocky, privileged one), feisty Southern belle Kelley (the spoiled one), soul-searcher Danny (the sensitive, lost one), Mormon Julie (the devoutly religious one), Catholic hip-hopper Matt (the culturally paradoxical one), loudmouth Melissa (the Filipino-black biracial one) and the auspicious overachiever David (er, the black one).
ROOMIE #2: David And surprise, surprise, there's also the requisite gay one (who is among one of the said male cast, but who he really is has hitherto been kept a secret).
ROOMIE #3: Jamie Given the official hush-hushness, we decided to go right to the source for this one. We called on the denizens of New Orleans to see if they've got any "Real World" moments they're just dying to share with us. For easy reading, the responses have been divided in the following categories.
"The house was cool, but I don't really care"
ROOMIE #4: Julie "[Their house] is absolutely gorgeous, but the whole thing is set up for commercial shooting, with walls as thin as paper," Chuck Ferguson, an artist whose paintings were displayed in the New Orleans house, told Hollywood.com. "I saw them around in coffeeshops and stuff, and I'm not star-struck. I never went up to them and said, 'Hey, you got some of my stuff at your house.'"
"We saw the cast around a lot, but we don't really care"
ROOMIE #5: Kelly
"We saw them at various clubs and events, and some people would know who they were. But if you approach them, they're really evasive," the good folks at insideneworleans.com, a New Orleans-based news Web site, told Hollywood.com. "And once you see it and you see them in action, you're pretty much as impressed with the show." "We saw them around, and we like to make fun of them"
ROOMIE #6: Matt
The people at insiderneworleans.com also told us: "The best thing happened during Mardi Gras. A local news writer here assembled a fake 'Real World' cast with 10 of his friends, and he started marching them up and down the streets and during the festival. That got the MTV camera crew confused, and they started following them, instead of the real cast, with cameras." ROOMIE #7: Melissa "Then the 'Real World' producers told them to leave the premises and asked them if they had a permit. Of course they did. But when they asked "The Real World" people for theirs [the permit], they didn't have it."
Oh, and just to cover all the bases, we also contacted the New Orleans' Police Department to see if any of MTV's seven had done anything, um, noteworthy during their Big Easy stay. Perhaps mistaking our question for a request on their criminal records (if any), New Orleans' finest told us that they couldn't give us that info.
Guess we'll just have to tune in.
The hourlong "Real World"/"Road Rules" casting special airs on MTV at 10 p.m. EDT/PDT on Tuesday.