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'Lawless,' a Movie of Gangsters and Moonshine, Lacks Wallop, Critics Say

John Hillcoat's newest film, set in the rural Virginia hills, is playing in Lawrenceville, Ga.

We have Brits, Australians and Yankees converging on rural Virginia, trying to convey convincing hillbilly accents for John Hillcoat's newest movie, Lawless. By all accounts, there seems to be room for improvement in both the accents and in the direction, cinematography and plot of this movie.

With a screenplay written by musician Nick Cave, it brings to life The Wettest County in the World, a 2008 historical novel by Matt Bondurant about his moonshine-running ancestors in Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition.

Unbought and unbossed, the Bondurant Brothers (Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Jason Clarke) run into trouble with two visitors from Chicago, mobster kingpin Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) and sadistic G-man Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). Each is intent on destroying the Bondurants and their moonshine empire.

In addition, Lawless has two female characters (Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska) who function as love interests for the Bondurant Boys and who provide a touch of nudity in an otherwise blood-and-guts-and-more-blood movie. If you're in the mood for a shoot 'em up set in the '30s, involving gangsters, try The Road to Perdition, which is much less gory.

Here's what critics are saying about Lawless:

"Not that the movie, a carnival of mayhem and period detail — visually suggesting Walker Evans, “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Miller’s Crossing” and “The Beverly Hillbillies” — exactly insists on realism. Nor, in spite of gruesome killings and boisterous car chases, does it hew to the conventions of the period gangster genre. It is, instead, a sprawling evocation of a vaguely rendered time and place, as crowded as an episode of “Hee Haw” and occasionally as much fun."

---from A.O. Scott in the New York Times

"...the Depression-era gangster tale "Lawless," turns the Virginia hills of the early 1930s into just another backdrop for a clockwork succession of perfunctorily filmed showdowns and shootouts.

For a movie about moonshine, something so imaginatively made, mood-altering and once violently sought-after, it goes down way too blandly."

-----from Robert Abele in the L.A. Times

“At heart, this Prohibition yarn is really just a genre picture done better than most. And it’s far from flawless.”

-----from Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News

Lawless is playing at  and in Lawrenceville. The run time is almost two hours. The brief nudity and violence have earned this movie an R rating.

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