Film Review: Lawless

Director: John Hillcoat
Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia LeBeouf, Guy Pearce
Genre: The other Roaring ’20s

That Nick Cave is a genius and a legend of the Australian music scene is not in question. So talented is he that clearly he could have made a career just out of writing hard-edged, gritty, dusty and violent period pieces if he wanted to. Alas, he only has a short history as a writer of screenplays. Apart from Lawless his only other effort was 2005’s The Proposition (also directed by Australian John Hillcoat).

Lawless Film Still

Even as a composer of film musical scores, Cave’s CV is short. During the last 15 years you can add only The Road (2009), another film directed by Hillcoat, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) to the two above, though interestingly, he has done lots of soundtracks.

Both Lawless (1920s prohibition/bootlegging America) and The Proposition (1880s bushranging/outback Australia) are excellent hyper-realistic and at times hyper-violent portrayals of important periods in their respective countries’ histories. The Road (post-apocalyptic, nihilistic road movie) and The Assassination of … are similarly dark and brooding.

Nick Cave is highly selective, chooses interesting films to be involved with and works with directors, producers and actors on his creative wavelength (Guy Pearce, for example, is in Lawless and The Proposition). This is something that, as an audience, we should be grateful for.

Lawless may not be everyone’s jar of moonshine, but there’s no denying it succeeds in creating an atmosphere laced with tension, gun smoke and tobacco, and hits its target right between the eyes. It’s that sort of film, and Nick Cave is that sort of musician.

Rating: Four homebrews

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