Metascore
58

Mixed or average reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 38
  2. Negative: 1 out of 38
  1. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 29, 2012
    80
    Lawless is one of those movies that feels like it's trying to say something more important than it really is. It could have been better, but with Hardy and Pearce on board, it's plenty good enough.
  2. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Aug 29, 2012
    80
    The action is, overall, as exciting as the primary performances are impressive.
  3. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Aug 28, 2012
    80
    As rollicking and rough as a drive down a dirt road with no suspension, Lawless is a tale of three-bootlegging brothers from Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia, who are, in the words of one character, some "hard-ass crackers."
  4. Reviewed by: Kate Erbland
    Aug 28, 2012
    80
    Filled to the brim with top-shelf performances from an impressive cast, and with enough well-executed (and often shocking) violence to keep moviegoers of all stripes wide awake, Lawless is a minor classic in the making.
  5. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Aug 11, 2012
    80
    If Lawless doesn't achieve the mythic dimensions of the truly great outlaw and gangster movies, it is a highly entertaining tale set in a vivid milieu, told with style and populated by a terrific ensemble.
  6. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Aug 29, 2012
    75
    Hardy, speaking in low, flat, almost musically macho tones, has the bruiser charisma of a caveman Kevin Costner. It's not the money he's clinging to - it's the freedom.
  7. Reviewed by: Kevin Jagernauth
    Aug 29, 2012
    75
    Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain both shine as the love interests for Jack and Forrest respectively, allowing those characters to have something beyond their business to be fighting for, with the skill of both performers allowing them to be more than just window dressing.
  8. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Aug 29, 2012
    75
    Kind of like Lawless, a movie about bootleggers more violently authentic than previous takes on the subject, from "Thunder Road" to the first half of "The Last American Hero." What Lawless has over those moonshine melodramas is a striking sense of period and setting.
  9. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Aug 29, 2012
    75
    The strength of the cast assembled by Australian-born director John Hillcoat is eye-opening.
  10. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Aug 29, 2012
    75
    A story of entrepreneurship, of family, of fighting for one's rights - the right to make white lightning, and money. It's as American as apple pie.
  11. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Aug 28, 2012
    75
    Hillcoat and Cave give us more than an action story. They create a world.
  12. Reviewed by: M. E. Russell
    Aug 28, 2012
    75
    The film's climax is a bit of a jumble, but by then Hillcoat has built his world so vibrantly that it hardly matters. And the hard-charging soundtrack -- featuring Cave, Warren Ellis, Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson -- is an absolute blast.
  13. Reviewed by: Jesse Cataldo
    Aug 26, 2012
    75
    Lawless may be full of half-hearted overtures toward depth and emotional complexity, but the film's prestige sheen is mostly a sham; the real focus here is the irrepressible lure of bad behavior.
  14. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Aug 31, 2012
    70
    Lawless is one of those films that, through seeming serendipity, has a cast that defines its moment. There have been others - "The Breakfast Club," "The Godfather" and "Silverado," to name one irrelevant and two relevant examples. But Lawless really lucked out.
  15. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Aug 29, 2012
    70
    Lawless offers a compelling, gruesome and instructive time-travel exercise.
  16. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Aug 27, 2012
    70
    One problem with Lawless, though, is that it feels chock-full of entrances that never quite lead anywhere. [3 Sept. 2012, p.78]
  17. Reviewed by: Mike D Angelo
    Aug 11, 2012
    67
    A thoroughly familiar-but flavorful and rousing-shoot-'em-up set among Prohibition bootleggers.
  18. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Aug 30, 2012
    63
    Lawless is a solid outlaw adventure, but you can feel it straining for a greatness that stays out of reach. There's even a prologue and an epilogue, arty tropes signifying an attempt to make a Godfather-style epic out of these moonshine wars. Not happening.
  19. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Aug 29, 2012
    63
    Lawless is a well-made film about ignorant and violent people. Like the recent "Killer Joe," I can only admire this film's craftsmanship and acting, and regret its failure to rise above them.
  20. Reviewed by: Mark Feeney
    Aug 29, 2012
    63
    Lawless is very bloody - but the scenery and production design are a whole lot nicer.
  21. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Aug 28, 2012
    63
    Despite some gruesome images and the psychotic fervor of Rakes, it's a frustratingly slow boil.
  22. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Aug 28, 2012
    63
    This should've been a really good picture, especially with Hillcoat's crack ensemble. Instead it's a stilted battle waged between the material and the interpreters. It's up to you, the thirsty customer, to decide who won.
  23. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    Sep 3, 2012
    60
    An uneven mix of impressively executed, violent clichés about good ol' boys defending the American right to flout the law.
  24. Reviewed by: Jane Crowther
    Sep 1, 2012
    60
    Stylish and savage, but nothing you haven't seen before. Lawless is something of a blunt instrument but seductive nonetheless.
  25. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Aug 29, 2012
    60
    Suffers through the occasional lull, but those would be much easier to forgive if they didn't also generate frequent false moments that threaten to take viewers out of the movie.
  26. Reviewed by: Stephen Garrett
    Aug 28, 2012
    60
    Even the soundtrack is mostly on-the-nose jug-band hokum, except for one cue: a searing old-timey version of the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat," courtesy of octogenarian bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley. If the rest of the movie had the same energy, spontaneity and soul, it would have been more potent than 190-proof hooch.
  27. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Aug 29, 2012
    50
    Lawless never fully comes together as a whole but it is quite intriguing in spots.
  28. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Aug 29, 2012
    50
    So stunningly photographed that the blood that spurts early and often in this grisly period piece is extra-vivid red. But that hardly makes the Prohibition-era story of a trio of bootlegging brothers feel authentic.
  29. 50
    Although it's shot in lovely, dusty shades of brown with splashes of Coca-Cola red, John Hillcoat's Lawless is dead weight: listlessly classical and then bludgeoning.
  30. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Aug 29, 2012
    50
    It attempts to take local history of the illegal whisky trade and raise it to the level of myth.
  31. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Aug 28, 2012
    50
    With visions of "The Public Enemy," "Bonnie and Clyde" and even "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" dancing in its head, the Prohibition-era drama Lawless winds up being equal to none of them -- even if it holds its own as a modestly respectable genre exercise.
  32. Reviewed by: Nick Pinkerton
    Aug 28, 2012
    50
    The narrative often seems at odds with the director's pictorialism, trudging when it should be striding toward the climax, isolating the performers on their marks when everything depends on taut blood-ties interconnection.
  33. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Aug 11, 2012
    50
    Lawless tries to be flawless; as a movie, it's often listless - lifeless.
  34. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Aug 28, 2012
    42
    Unfortunately, Lawless lacks the same darkly energizing spirit that made "The Proposition" such a revelation: It has plenty of gunplay, scowling showdowns and dust-caked setpieces, but little in the way of dynamic filmmaking to imbue those elements with life.
  35. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    Aug 29, 2012
    40
    For a movie about moonshine, something so imaginatively made, mood-altering and once violently sought-after, it goes down way too blandly.
  36. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Aug 28, 2012
    40
    There are too many action-movie clichés without enough dramatic purpose, and interesting themes and anecdotes are scattered around without being fully explored. This is weak and cloudy moonshine: it doesn't burn or intoxicate.
  37. Reviewed by: Jason Solomons
    Aug 11, 2012
    40
    Star-studded and violent yet empty as a broken whisky bottle.
  38. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Aug 29, 2012
    38
    It's hard to make a movie about moonshiners that isn't entertaining, but the lethargic, generically titled Lawless comes perilously close - at least a third of its two hours is devoted to "arty'' shots of landscapes.
User Score
7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 192 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 47
  2. Negative: 5 out of 47
  1. Sep 16, 2012
    7
    Enjoyed much more than the critics average would of suggested. It tries to bill itself as a realistic account of prohibition but plays out like a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. It has a somewhat unique view that kept me entertained for the time in the theater but do not expect to be making any DVD purchases of this film any time soon. Decent acting though. The bad guy was a little to much over to top for this movie if you ask me and did not fit in well with the theme or other characters. He fit in like putting Buggs Bunny in Star Wars. Other than that pretty good but not greatness. Full Review »
  2. Aug 31, 2012
    9
    What a rollicking good ol' time at the movies! Think "Breaking Bad", circa 1930, and you have a taste of what "Lawless" is like. Stellar ensemble cast, beautiful cinematography, tremendous production design, one of the best soundtracks of the year (reminiscent of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?), and a LOT of action! Dunno if its gonna cause any Oscar buzz, but I sure liked it!

    This one is NOT for the squeamish though! TONS o' graphic violence and very bloody, but all of it fits within the realm of the story, so I won't call it gratuitous. Definitely not for everyone because of this factor, Those that see it and have a discriminating eye may catch some editing, continuity, & make-up gaffs, but you know what? Heck, even "Terry Malloy" (Brando) even gets outta the wrong side of the cab in On the Waterfront, so you'll find little "oopsah-daisies" in the very best films of all time. Downloading the soundtrack from iTunes tonight. Grade = A-
    Full Review »
  3. Aug 29, 2012
    9
    One of the best movies of the year. While it doesn't quite reach Hillcoat's masterpiece The Proposition, it's still a beautifully shot, though brutally violent period piece that is expertly acted by the entire cast. While it's ultimately Tom Hardy who steals the show, Guy Pearce looks to be having the time of his life playing the cartoonish (in a good way) and sleazy villain, and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' soundtrack stays with you long after the credits roll. Full Review »