Can’t Wait: John Hillcoat’s ‘Lawless’


While my other movie series, I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Film School, looks back, I figured I should place at least one foot in the here and now of giddy anticipation.  Therefore, Can’t Wait focuses on upcoming movies I, well, can’t wait to see, along with a few reasons why.

I don’t think Guy Pearce has it in him to let me down.  Whether he’s the unimpeachable-boy-scout-who-must-break-his-code Edmund Exley in the flawless L.A. Confidential, a king-to-be who wants nothing to do with his throne (The King’s Speech), or a brain-scrambled neo-noir detective trying to solve his own mystery in reverse (Memento), he has always shown he knows a thing or two about acting.  Now, in Lawless, he reteams with his The Proposition and The Road director, John Hillcoat, priming himself to add another memorable role to his resume.

Clearly, Pearce is not the only reason to be excited for the movie.  Shia LaBeouf seems elated to abandon the nonsensical action and sexism-a-paloozas that are the Transformers franchise in order to try a more mature role.  Tom Hardy looks to solidify his movie star credentials as a bourgeoning southern booze magnate.  Jessica Chastain has a mischievous glint in her eye not seen (by me, at least) in any of her performances to date.  Oh, and Gary Oldman strutting his acting titan stuff.

The great cast aside, Hillcoat is an interesting director poised to take the leap to “must see” with Lawless.  While The Road remains one of those “I’d watch it if I didn’t keep forgetting to shoot it to the top of my Netflix queue” films, I have seen his very good Australian western, The Proposition.  In that, Hillcoat displayed a keen sense of tone and an eye for interesting, stylized violence reminiscent of one of my favorite filmmakers, Nicolas Winding Refn.  Pearce’s role — a prisoner tasked with killing his criminal older brother in order to save the life of his slightly-more-innocent younger brother — in The Proposition is reason enough to get me to see anything else these two do together.

A period setting? Gangsters? Violence? Count me in.

I cannot wait to see what Hillcoat does with the Prohibition-era South, a time in American history that can’t help but be fascinating.  I’m glad to see him strip away the folk hero aspects of these booze runners and instead slather grimy true-crime details on the flick.  I’m excited to see the nitty gritty of how these mom and pop liquor rackets blossomed into criminal enterprises, with all the familial jealousies and toe-stepping on rival gangs that go along with it.  I fully expect captivating performances from all the principle cast members — especially the disturbingly eyebrow-less Pearce — and a smattering of ultraviolence to sweeten the pot.  If these things happen, Lawless could go from simply being a bright spot of late-August film doldrums to a year-end awards contender.

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