Friday, September 28, 2012


Based upon a book that is based upon the real life adventures of a prohibition-era family of brothers in the rural Virginia mountainside, Lawless feels almost like an episode of The Waltons... gone rogue.

Yeah, so you all know the prohibition story. Booze was outlawed and all that. Crime was rampant, bootlegging everywhere... yadda, yadda...
In keeping with the times, this family decides to increase their standard of poverty by joining the rest of their county in the moonshine business.
All is well and good while the county prospers until bigger/meaner/more violent fish arrive and try to make some money by not making moonshine, and 'taxing' it's distribution instead.

One family kinda liked things the way they were before the new syndicate arrived, and decide they won't play within the new rules.

Things get ugly.
That is to be expected, of course.
I've seen in print (somewhere) alluding to the art house film of the year, or something like that...
Well...  I HATE it when art films promote themselves as art films. You let the critics do that.
It's like this: If a film has to make a point of telling me it is Art in order to get me to see it, it's artfulness is suspect. 
Just like the average man, I'm no connoisseur of film; I may not always know what art is; but I do have an idea of what it is not:
  • If I can do it, it ain't art.
  • And if I saw it before, (as in, every week... plus reruns) spanning two decades of network television 20-30 years ago, it is not art.
OK, it's not art, but what does it offer?
This story contains mountain folk, liquor, guns, large attitudes, poverty, swagger, cute girls, bad guys, and a naked Jessica Chastain... set against a beautiful Appalachian backdrop.
It has all the ingredients needed to produce one hell of a fine film if placed in the proper hands.
Woefully, that is not what happened.

First off, this is supposed to be a rural county, dirt roads and the like. Yet, everybody is wearing off-the-shelf clean clothes, no dust or wear ... just like The Waltons did.
Nice antique, brand new furnishings fill the homes and restaurants. I think they even hired the Walton's set designer. A certain sterile romanticism-of-the-period works well for television, but not in modern film making passing itself off as 'art'.

The trailers hinted at a string of gunfights through out. Forget that. Gun play is minimal. Even the final shoot out , as large and involved as it is, might leave you scratching yer head... what the hell was that I just saw???

The flow from scene to scene was choppy. There were times when I had to think back to what I had just seen 2 minutes previous in order to make sense of the scene before me.

(Yet, Jessica's Chastain's naked stroll stuck in my mind for several minutes following... can't imagine why...)

Character development is minimal. Sure, you know all about how badass the big brother is, but that's because the younger brother has already dialogued it. Such a technique works in a mainstream movie, not in one proclaiming itself as 'Art'.

Maybe I'm being a little unfair. Overall, it's not a bad flick for a mainstream theater crowd. Most will enjoy it.
As for me, I didn't dislike the film. I just disliked what it was passed off as being.


    Brian said...

    Never heard of Ms. Chastain, but I just looked her up and she is indeed lovely.

    I re-watched The Omen on Netflix last weekend for the first time in many years. That movie is awesome.

    Gino said...

    The Omen? wasnt that before yer time? i dont think i ever seen it myself, but i DID see omen II. got thrown out of theater for being underage, and then allowed back in through the side door.

    Brian said...

    Well, yeah...The Omen was before my time, but VCR's weren't...

    Most of my favorite horror movies were made either right before I was born, or when I was much too young to be watching them.