Lawless (2012)

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Released 20-Feb-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Drama Audio Commentary-with director John Hillcoat and author Matt Bondurant
Featurette-Making Of-Lawless: The Story of the Wettest County in the World
Featurette-Franklin County, Virginia: Then and Now
Deleted Scenes-Six Deleted Scenes
Music Video-Willie Nelson: Midnight Run
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 111:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By John Hillcoat
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Shia LaBeouf
Tom Hardy
Jason Clarke
Guy Pearce
Jessica Chastain
Mia Wasikowska
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Nick Cave
Warren Ellis


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Lawless is adapted from author Matt Bondurant's 2008 novel, The Wettest County in the World. This was the original title of the film, however director John Hillcoat, as he explains in the audio commentary, couldn't use that title as European distributors feared that audiences outside of the USA wouldn't connect the title of the book with the prohibition era in America from 1920 until 1933. Terrence Malick got a thank you credit for allowing the producers of this film to use his working title, 'Lawless' for his upcoming film project in 2013. Matt Bondurant wrote the novel about his grandfather Jack and his two granduncles, Forrest and Howard. The film has an ensemble cast, with Shia LeBeouf playing Jack, the youngest and physically smallest Bondurant brother, who together with his older brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) run a bootlegging moonshine (alcohol distilling) business in Franklin County, Virginia. Gary Oldman plays a rival city-type mobster Floyd Banner, Jessica Chastain plays Forrest's love interest Maggie and Australian actors Mia Wasikowska plays a preacher's daughter and Jack's love interest with Guy Pearce playing the main protagonist Charlie Rakes, an over-the-top special deputy who demands that the Bondurant brothers cut him in on their business or else!

     With such an outstanding cast, it seems to me that Shia LeBeouf's character Jack carries the film with the most scenes and unfortunately this detracts from the other fine performances in the film. Tom Hardy's Forrest also gets to develop his character here, but Jason Clarke's Howard is underdeveloped, as is everyone else here except for Guy Pearce's role of Charlie Rakes. Guy Pearce has been criticised by critics for this role because Rakes is perhaps too extreme in his mannerisms. In defence of director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave (yes, the Australian musician), the only way to have given justice to these characters would have been to present the film as an epic historic drama running at somewhere closer to 3 hours. Unfortunately, the cost of the film brought it in less than 2 hours in length, and thus we never to get see the characters 'fleshed-out', except for Jack and Forrest.

     There are events in the film which occur that require some historical context. For starters, we need to understand that the good country folk of Franklin County turned to 'moonshining' in the early 20th century to supplement their income from farming. In the modern context, think of people you know who supplement their income by not declaring their tax obligations each year or illegally downloading copyrighted material from the internet. So, when critics write that the Bondurant brothers are portrayed as heroic outlaws I can't help feeling that they are missing the point.

     Lawless is an enjoyable film that tries to pack too much story in under 2 hours. I sincerely hope that director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave get to develop another film in the near future as we know that their 2005 western, The Proposition showed fans of cinema that this duo have a cinematic talent worth following.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme returns for his second film with John Hillcoat after The Proposition. Both films are about three outlaws but that is where the similarities end in regards to cinematography. John Hillcoat discussed using the digital Alexa camera with Roger Deakins and Harris Savides and convinced Delhomme to shoot Lawless on digital film. In contrast to The Proposition, Lawless uses more natural light, more saturated and muted colours and scenes influenced by Terrence Malick's penchant for shooting long shots of nature.

     The aspect ratio is 2:35:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

     Despite the predominant use of natural lighting the image transfer is sharp.

     Colour is muted and saturated to highlight the setting of the film in rural 1930s America.

     The average bitrate is 6.71m/b per sec which is standard for DVD. John Hillcoat, after discussing the matter with David Fincher, added some slight grain to the transfer in post-production to take some 'gloss' off the digitally shot film. There is also some slight mosquito noise around the opening credits, but this may be due to the opening scenes presented in lighting during the sunset hours.

     Subtitles are provided in English only.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Nick Cave and Warren Ellis are responsible for the soundtrack and, like the sound effects in the film, these are used sparingly to support the action and dialogue.

     The main audio track is an English Dolby Digital track encoded at 448 kbps. There is also an English Descriptive Audio track for listeners who are hard of hearing and an audio commentary track from director John Hillcoat and author Matt Bondurant. These tracks are both English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks encoded at 224 kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and synchronised throughout.

     The bluegrass-inspired soundtrack adds character to the country atmosphere, Cave and Ellis have done a great job here.

     Surround Channel Usage is subtly used to highlight the sound of wind, campfires, engines cranking and crickets chirping. Again, sound effects are used to enhance the authenticity of this period film.

     The Subwoofer is not 'cranked-up' in the gun-shooting scenes and similar graphic, violent scenes (of which there are a few involving knives and tarring and feathering). Instead, the emphasis of these scenes is intended to be visual.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with director John Hillcoat and author Matt Bondurant

     Director John Hillcoat and Author Matt Bondurant discuss the history of these characters and detail both the true and fictionalised elements of the drama. They share how they brought the historical elements to life through casting, locations, real-life counterparts, family history and many behind-the-scenes anecdotes. I found that director John Hillcoat took a while to get going but the commentary gets more interesting as the film enters the second act.

Lawless: The Story of the Wettest County in the World (20:40)

     This featurette is like an Electronic Press Kit (EPK) for the film. It serves as the film's making-of, and includes interviews with the cast and crew, as well as on-set footage. Again, there are some nice anecdotes here, especially from Hillcoat and Matt Bondurant.

Franklin County, Virginia: Then and Now (5:57)

     We explore the changes that have occurred in Franklin County during the late 19th and 20th century which gives the audience a broader context for the events of the film.

Six Deleted Scenes (8:13)

     These six deleted scenes are really extended scenes or alternate takes so there is really nothing much new here that we don't get in the film. These are presented in a 'play all' option. The scenes are labelled:

Willie Nelson: Midnight Run Music Video (1:36)

     Willie Nelson is shown here in stock footage together with some clips from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 United States DVD release is identical to the Region 2 / 4 Australian release

Summary

     There's no doubt you enjoyed John Hillcoat's The Proposition and The Road and no doubt you will enjoy this too. It's a pity that the story is too big for the length of the film as it has been wonderfully shot by Benoît Delhomme and the soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is quite good too. I don't think the initial casting choices for Howard (Ryan Gosling) and Forrest (James Franco) would have made a difference to the critical success or failure of Lawless. Ultimately, Lawless is not a classic gangster epic, yet neither is it a flop. There are some quality extras here to make it worthwhile checking out.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Wednesday, March 06, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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