Shia LaBeouf doesn’t have anywhere close to the Hollywood cache these days that he once enjoyed only a few years ago. Some controversies and very odd and damaging behavior will do that to an actor. This guy has more than a few issues he’s dealing with right now. But that doesn’t mean some of the previous work doesn’t stand up on its own on screen and he clearly was a part of some pretty damn good movies at the height of his acting powers. One of those films was just added to streaming and definitely worth checking out if you have the chance. This week Netflix added Lawless in the United States and it’s a chance to see LaBeouf as part of the booze-running group who controlled the moonshine trade in Virginia during the 1930s.
Lawless is based on the book The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant. It is about the author’s own family and how they rose to prominence in the early 20th century when they controlled much of the moonshine trade in Virginia and some other states. Shia LaBeouf plays Jack Bondurant while Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke play his brothers Forrest and Howard Bondurant respectfully. The family runs a successful bootlegging operation in the hills of Virginia and are akin to the local law with the size of their operation.
The Bondurant family is running booze and looking for love in this gritty period piece about how the local economy is supported by this, at the time, illegal trade and just how cutthroat the whole venture could be. Each of the brothers, but namely Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy are troubled souls who see this moonshine trade as their only chance for survival during these times. They are willing to protect the venture with their lives as well. Where they are running into issues is from corrupt law enforcement officials on both the local and federal level as well as rival mobsters. It’s a dangerous and violent trade during this time. Here, check out the trailer for Lawless.
Lawless has an absolutely stacked cast. In addition to Shia LaBeouf and the other Bondurant brothers, there’s also Jessica Chastain as Maggie who comes to work at one of the family’s establishments. Plus Guy Pearce comes around as Deputy Charley Rakes, a corrupt federal agent who is looking to get his cut of the booze haul. And then there’s Gary Oldman who plays a rival mob boss, evil and scarily stoic. Finally, Dane DeHaan has a role as part of the Bondurant crew as well.
Director John Hillcoat helms an intense and captivating story here that plays across multiple angles. It was his first time and only time working with Shia LaBeouf but he also directed flicks like The Road as well as Triple 9. The director has a sense of intensity and it plays out on the screen in this film in a number of different ways.
Lawless was a moderate critical success, sitting at 66% on Rotten Tomatoes and 58 on Metacritic. There’s a sense that while this story is solid and the cast of Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy especially is right on the nose, the film came up just a little short in the overall story. Some of that could have been the weight of expectations considering the names that were involved with the film, but there were just a few missed opportunities with the flick delving a little too much into the love angle for the main characters.
Overall though, this is a very easy watch and definitely worth it to catch on Netflix. The leads of Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy alone are worth it and the film does a great job of capturing a sense of the times as well. As for Shia LeBeouf, his acting career might be in jeopardy.
He’s had a number of controversies over the year, but his latest involves abuse allegations from his former girlfriend FKA Twigs. She contends LeBeouf abused her over a period of time. The actor had also split from his representation firm. So his future is very much in doubt. But there’s no denying that, on screen, he was once a talent. And you can catch one of his underlooked movies on Netflix now.