Movie Review: LAWLESS (2012)

Published by Shah Shahid on

Shia LeBeouf sucks. OK, let me try to be a bit more articulate in my dislike. Shia LeBeouf’s bad acting can only be rivaled by his poor choice in films and his total disregard for any semblance of ‘believable’ in his deliveries. And his casting and characterization was probably the biggest reason why LAWLESS simply sucked as well. Here is my frustrated Movie Review…

Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars (original)

2.5 out of 5 Stars (revised)

[ Update: Terrence from The Focused Filmographer’s vehement disagreement of my perception of this film made me revisit the film after writing this Review. Putting aside my annoyance of Shia LeBeouf, I realized that the performances of Tom Hardy & Jessica Chastain, and their characters’ sub plot, are the biggest redeeming factors of this movie. I’ve revised my rating of it accordingly. I still found the film itself to be lacking in many areas, but it definitely was not deserving of my initial rating. Now please excuse me while I enjoy a warm slice of Humbe Pie. ]

Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce in Lawless 2012

With an awesome cast of Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce and Tom Hardy, combined with a setting of bootlegging times in America, LAWLESS should’ve been a great movie leaving a lasting impression. It did for me, but not in a good way. “Why not?” you may ask in the world I’ve created in my mind. I’d answer: “Shia LeBeouf.”

The story is supposedly about three brothers who run liquor from State Lines during Prohibition in America. Illegally… for my readers who may not know what ‘prohibition’ refers to. After a government guy tries to muscle in on the business by wanting a cut, the three brothers refuse and stay independent and become Public Enemy Number 1, chased down by a lawman played by Guy Pearce. A premise that sounds pretty fuckin awesome no? No. Not at all.

Shia LeBeouf & Tom Hardy in Lawless 2012

the brothers, sporting the worst expressions ever caught on camera…

Despite what the synopsis and that narrative set up the movie to be, LAWLESS essentially becomes about Shia Lebeouf’s character, Jack, and his complete and utter douchebaggery throughout the movie. Jack is the youngest of the three brothers, and the most immature, as it evident by his actions, which constantly gets him into trouble, requiring his older brothers to bail him out. That is essentially the entire conflict of the movie, with majority of the plot points working around the fact of Jack being a complete douchebag.

In the beginning of the movie, Jack is kept away from the details of the bootlegging business by big brother Forrest played by Tom Hardy. Jack eventually takes some risks that cause the brothers to become very successful business when the government places restrictions on the transporting of alcohol. His minor success is then celebrated by showing off a new car, fine tailored suits and basically flashing money that he shouldn’t be making. Y’know… ‘cuz it’s illegal!

Shia LeBeouf & Tom Hardy in Lawless 2012

‘look at my big boy clothes bro!’

LAWLESS is interesting, riveting and even shocking in some scenes. Most of those sequences involve Hardy and Jessica Chastain’s character. However, the movie is ruined by the casting choice of LeBeouf and the way his character was written and performed. Despite their infamy and the cops being on their ass, Jack just flaunts his wealth even further and tries to impress, of all girls, the Preacher’s daughter. All of this culminates in further douchebaggery as Jack goes to kill Pearce’s lawman, oh, and 20 other cops… by himself.

Shia LeBeouf is able to play every single role he does, with this annoying and irritable quality that prevents him from ever being well liked. His characters’ actions always seem to be motivated by immature, knee jerk reactions, on the basis of which the story can move forward. Almost every movie of his, shows LeBeouf in this manner. Similar to all his other roles, his hyper quick way of speech, combined with his nervous eyes doesn’t make him relatable. Not once in LAWLESS am I ever happy for his success, or rooting for him.

Jessica Chastain & Tom Hardy in Lawless 2012

more of this!

LAWLESS has this amazing sub plot of Hardy’s Forrest and Jessica Chastain’s city girl with a past trying to find solace in the country. Their love affair is told so subtly and with such grace through out the other stupidity of the movie, that it feels like we’re watching two different movies altogether. Tom Hardy is a lot more restraint in this role, but his version of a Southern drawl (I assume) becomes more like Bane without the mask.

Overall LAWLESS could’ve been very riveting drama, however, it’s solely Shia Lebeouf’s performance and how his character was portrayed, that effectively ruins any chance for anyone to care aboutwhat happens, effectively ruining the movie itself.

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


CMrok93 · August 18, 2013 at 6:45 PM

Good review Shah. It was surprisingly very good. Yes, also very slow, but when it wanted to rank-up the tension, it did so and it kicked me into next week.

    Shah Shahid · August 18, 2013 at 7:45 PM

    It had a lot of tense moments. My favourite being the initial scene with Tom Hardy and… that incident. 😐
    I was left with a pounding heart and completely breathless.

    Thanks for the comment Dan.

The Focused Filmographer · October 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Even if you hadn’t have given a different score, I still very much applaud the fact that you were open to watch it again and give it a second try. I’ve watched it 4 times now and still enjoy it. Yes, as you state, it is not without its flaws, but I def had a blast going back and forth about it with you on fb and twitter and here.

An unexpected modified change of view. one that I thought was real cool to see from ya. In the end, there’s no one opinion that is right and absolute but thanks for considering mine.

I look forward to further dissonance in our views and discoverings of different aspects of film with you! 🙂

    Shah Shahid · October 1, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I’m nothing if not flexible. 😐 lol.

    This is kind of why I refused to have a rating system for the longest time on my site. I find so many variables influences the ‘likeability’ of a movie, that there can never be an ‘absolute’. In this case, my frustration with LeBeouf & prior high expectations from the story overshadowed my objectivity. So I revisited and realized that it was an unfair assessment. I still didn’t like the movie as a whole, but there were aspects that didn’t make it as horrible as an experience as I initially thought.

    I’m still getting the hang of this rating system, and in the meantime, definitely looking forward to more discord with you. 😉

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