If the story, based on a book by Matt Bondurant and adapted for the screen by Nick Cave, packs in too many characters and feels a bit unbalanced at times, it pays off handsomely with a classic shootout that thrills in its simplicity. When the tension runs this high and the story’s climax feels this inevitable, it’s not the film’s drawbacks but its strengths that carry the day.

Lawless feels like the kind of movie Hollywood no longer makes—character-driven period pieces that aren’t about high society or refined social mores, but which focus instead on the abuse of power and the struggle to survive in the face of injustice. The villains and (anti)heroes of Lawless claim their own victims, but it’s we, the audience, who realize what we’ve lost as we watch: down-to-earth stories that don’t feature men who dress in opulent costumes, or finales created on a computer.

It’s been too long since an old-fashioned shootout felt this fresh, this exciting. Why can’t there be more movies like this one?

CAUTIONS

  • Language/Profanity: “Godd-mn”; several uses of foul language, including the “f”-word
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Moonshine manufacture and sales drive the plot; several scenes of drinking and smoking; Jack goes to church drunk
  • Sex/Nudity: A man tells another man that he’ll “need a crowbar to get inside” of a woman; a woman is said to have been a dancer “with feathers” before she moved to Virginia; a nude woman; breasts and pubic hair shown; kissing; a woman crawls into a man’s bed, kisses him, and they start to have sex
  • Violence/Crime: Dead bodies; a gun is aimed at a pig and fired; fisticuffs, including with brass knuckles, and brawling; a man spits blood; blood and bloodstains shown; a man is tarred and feathered; a broken neck; an explosion; a shootout
  • Marriage/Religion: Jack falls for a preacher’s daughter; a church service includes a capella hymn singing and foot washing; an action is said to “go beyond the point of forgiveness”; a character says, “There’s a lot that can’t be forgiven”; it’s said that “there can be no absolution”

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: August 29, 2012