Lawless premiere: Somerset House
The quixotic conception of outdoor cinema settings being thwarted by English downpour and stone hard floor was put to the test in a 9pm viewing of Lawless, soon to be released nationwide on screen. There was a particularly ironic antithesis between the beautiful surroundings of Somerset House and the backdrop of Hillcoat’s crime thriller: dusty Virginia.
The story revolves around three brothers intent on becoming ruthless iconic American gangsters. Jack (Shia LaBeouf), the youngest most impressionable Bondurant brother, seeks to find his inner heartlessness, as he becomes caught up in brawls that he can’t handle, in contrast to the tenderness he finds with a Christian girl, played by Mia Wasikowska. LaBeouf acts well, if not slightly irritatingly in this role: physically shy of his stocky brothers and emotionally never ready for the danger he seeks. Tom Hardy, as his older brother Forrest, acts quietly, but extremely poignantly and powerfully. His presence captures attention even when he is silent. Guy Pearce also shines as a fraudulent cop, battering his victims so heartlessly and so without perceptible intention that it is almost laughable.
The film is at times gripping, and filled with moments of both callousness and gentleness. It is violent, grisly and spread-eagled proportionately between Western romance and American gangster. Hillcoat wanted to explore the idea of violence bringing out the best and worst in a person, but the character development that should emanate from this intention is overshadowed by mindless batterings.
The fire and grit within the film lies in its violence, without which there would be a certain emptiness. To live for dominance without real resolve is a hollow concept, and Lawless constantly battles this in order to try and connect with an audience. It is worth seeing, mostly for its brilliant acting, and this coupled with its outdoor showing at Somerset House made for a great evening of entertainment. However, as a film it seems to constantly fall short of much needed depth to make it really recommendable.
Watch the trailer for Lawless here