The latest film from John Hillcoat, whose last two movies, The Proposition (2005) and The Road (2009), had a jagged edge to them, is Lawless, which is more jagged than edgy.
Set in the southwestern Virginia bootlegging world of 1931, the screenplay is by Nick Cave, adapted from The Wettest County in the World, a novel by Matt Bondurant, which he wrote from family tales.
Lawless is, itself, a family tale, albeit a violent one.
The Bondurant brothers — Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and young Jack (Shia LaBeouf) — have a nice moonshine business selling to local customers when Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) arrives from Chicago. A bit of a psychopath, he wants in on the moonshine action, but the Bondurants would rather deal with a regional mob boss (Gary Oldman). Guns being aplenty, a bloody little war breaks out.
Hillcoat tried to modulate the violence with Forrest's attraction to Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a redhead who shows up one day as a waitress in the cafe that the Bondurants use as a headquarters. Meanwhile, Jack courts the preacher's sweet daughter Bertha (Mia Wasikowska).
Lawless, ultimately, is a serviceable action film with a good cast, but if the filmmaker had greater ambitions, they were lost amid the flying bullets.
Lawless retails for $29.98 or $39.99 Blu-ray.