User Score
7.1

Generally favorable reviews- based on 206 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 9 out of 206

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  1. Jun 6, 2014
    6
    Lawless isn't much of a standout film, as it trades most of its dramatic moments for period movie clichés, sex, and cinematic shortcuts until it finally reaches a standard, predictable ending. The one high point is the acting, and maybe even surprisingly better-than-average script.
  2. Dec 23, 2013
    9
    An excellently cast and written movie that manages to be extremely brutal without coming across as over excessive with it's violence. It might not get all the facts right but it still provides an excellent look into the lives of these characters. It might even make you want to look further into the history of the events yourself. I really enjoyed Lawless and highly recommend watching it.
  3. Dec 14, 2013
    9
    Lawless may not entirely live up to the sum of all its celebrated parts but it succeeds in telling a riveting “true life” historical drama with plenty of entertaining and memorable characters coupled with smart filmmaking choices. A few core story beats aren’t fully realized and there are some awkward moments of truth and fiction balancing but, nevertheless, the movie delivers a brutal and exceptionally honest look at the Bondurant Boys and their fascinating (not to mention dangerous) bootlegging days. Expand
  4. Nov 8, 2013
    7
    I got exactly what I wanted out of this film: good acting, a good soundtrack, and a taste of the old days. It's not a great one, but it's pretty good, and certainly entertaining.
  5. Jun 13, 2013
    8
    While trying its hardest to be gritty, realistic and perhaps accurate, Lawless tends to come off too 'Hollywood' a few times throughout the film, but with superb performances and a very graphic tale, it is ultimately one of the best films of 2012.
    Tom Hardy is the undeniable and deserved star of the show, his quiet, focused and very powerful performance as successful moonshine business
    runner Forrest Bondurant lifted the film to new heights it wouldn't have reached without his and Guy Pearce's performances. Based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers, also consisting of Jack (Shia LaBeouf) and Howard (Jason Clarke). Jack tries desperately to be a part of the business his older brothers run in Franklin County.
    But trouble is not far around the corner, and when the big gangsters from the city are becoming more consistent, Special Deputy Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) is drafted in to bring sort of order to this lawless county, with his own methods in hand.
    When Forrest refuses a deal to be in the pocket of the law, its a battle of survival and honour from there on in, bloodshed to bloodshed.
    The beautiful cinematography, Prohibition era setting and the landscape add up to an excellent looking film, but it often it seems to get lost in itself, Gary Oldman makes an appearance as notorious gangster Floyd Banner, but disappears quite quickly without much warning. The characters jump in and out of importance but ultimately do have their own burdens and troubles, Forrest is reluctant to let Jack join the business, and he has also to try and encourage the other 'bootleggers' to stand up against the new law in the town.
    Shia LaBeouf's Jack is touted as the driving force of the film, how he tries to finally step out of his brothers shadows, but Forrest is just too good a character to paint over, his calm and collective attitude, but his protection of his family when necessary are shown through Tom Hardy, while Guy Pearce is frightening and often deluded as Charley Rakes, his perfect hair and menacing eyes tell a story that you wouldn't want to hear.
    Graphic in its content, there is plenty here to be entertained, humour, horror, but most of all, performance. Not without it's cons, but Lawless certainly hits all the right notes and has some of the best performances of last year.
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  6. May 15, 2013
    3
    If it weren't for the wonderful cinematography and brilliant acting from Guy Pearce this movie would be a complete flop. Bootlegging prohibition movies usually excite me, but the plot in this movie has no meaningful plot whatsoever, it's completely pointless, which does not warrant the excessive brutal gore violence included in this movie. It makes me sick thinking about the brutality that is so unwarranted in this movie. One of the worst movies I've seen in awhile. Expand
  7. Apr 6, 2013
    5
    I had a lot of expectations on this movie. Let alone some very good actors, but the story and the era leaves loads of compelling stories to tell. Sadly Lawless transcended into clichés and sadly not just one but many which interupts an otherwise promising movie. Just when you started to get a feeling for the main characters it got spoiled. The biggest cliché of all is sadly Guy Pierce. Don't know whether I should blame the directing or the editing but his villain character feels so overacted that it is not even laughable. It's just bad. Other great actors such as Gary Oldman hardly gets to make a lasting impact. All in all it makes Lawless a pretty mediocre film. Tom Hardy though makes a resounding performance and the film has very nice cinematography. But that does not save a film that could have been so much better. Expand
  8. Mar 24, 2013
    7
    Lawless is a powerful film that showcases the acting talents of its cast. Shia delivers a wonderful performance as the foolish and proud but timid youngest brother, while Hardy excels as the grisly silent elder brother, but it is Guy Pearce who delivers the films stand out performance as the deranged Officer of the law with a quick wit and an even quicker bullet a must watch!
  9. Mar 15, 2013
    9
    An all star cast makes this one of my favorite films of 2012. Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Dane Deehan, and even Shia LaBeouf give top notch performances. Making Lawless a must see.
  10. Mar 15, 2013
    8
    A brilliant movie but just misses the chance of being the masterpiece it strived near with a perfect selection of cast its almost too impossible to dislike overall. I felt the direction of its characters could have had more depth z& screen time, the movie presented some charming locations added together with some beautiful filming and had a broad as well as relaxing score, Lawless is about 3 brothers (played by Hardy, LaBeouf & Clarke) who run a moonshine business but they are then confronted by a sent Special Deputy (played by Pearce) who wishes to have a cut from the brothers business but is turned down which sends both parties into a violent war. Tom Hardy pulls off a stellar performance as lead brother Forrest Bondurant by showing his diversity as an actor from his strength & pride shown in his character to developing a gritty American accent and showing us he can lead a heavily talented cast, easily making this his best performance to date. Shia LaBeouf plays Jack Bondurant and surprisingly shows some great acting, showing he can distant himself from the Transformers movies and convert to a much more serious & vulnerable role bringing some sense of wittiness & courage to his character which is well built upon throughout the movie. Guy Pearce sure kept the standards high in terms of acting by giving us a legit Antagonist in Deputy Charles Rakes but sadly he single handily delivers the only urge of a real threat in the movie (apart from the attack on Forrest). He puts on a clinic of wickedness in his character and is surely successful in creating a sinister deputy but does fall into a wacky state late in the movie. As for Gary Oldman i felt performed perfectly but his screen time was too short which i felt was a major loss of opportunity same goes for Jason Clarke who plays Howard Bondurant the third brother who does have some great scenes but lacked in depth, emotion and screen time to. He showed a lot of strength and will in his role but lacked major depth almost being more like a family friend then brother throughout the movie. Chastain & Wasikowska both played love interests to Jack & Forrest having great roles but the movie barely capitalized on it and kept scenes simple showing the only challenge for their characters was acceptance and love, i felt they missed a opportunity to shift parts of the movie into a deeper thriller & drama here. The violence can be quite vicious but i felt it kept it relevant to the film and the action scenes weren't blown out of proportion. Lawless is a great movie with minor downfalls but overall it's a beautifully scripted film that deserves more praise then criticism. Expand
  11. Mar 11, 2013
    7
    Not a bad movie. But watching it after you hear it involves John Hillcoat, Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain and Gary Oldman, you can't help but be disappointed.
  12. Feb 3, 2013
    6
    If Atlantic City showed us the Broadway of prohibition violence, Lawless takes us through the back alleys in the world bootleggers and moonshiners. Tom Hardy stands tall as usual and the rest of the well put together cast bring a solid punch. If your looking for good ol country boys with nothing to lose and principle then your in the right town. Lawless pours you drink of violence and bad ass while not spilling a drop. Expand
  13. Jan 28, 2013
    6
    "Lawless" is well done, has excellent all around performances and is a fine addition to the genre. It's worth checking out, but be forewarned, you've seen this all before. The film boasts a stellar cast, but it fails to elevate the film to it's potential under the direction of Australian director John Hillcoat (The Proposition). The film does however offer beautiful technical aspects and production values--the costumes, production sets, and yes, the vehicles are first rate.
    "Lawless" (adapted from the book "The Wettest County in the World"), in which real-life bootlegging brothers the Bondurants are known as the toughest and most successful bootleggers in the business. Oldest brother Forrest (Tom Hardy) runs the family business with quiet brute strength, while his brother Howard (Jason Clarke) is the "crazy one," and then there is the runt of the litter, young Jack (Shia LaBeouf), who doesn't take to violence like his older brothers, but he still wants into the family business. The lucrative business turns bloody, however, when the Bondurants refuse to allow a corrupt politician and his cronies to wedge themselves in to their racket. This leads to a violent stand-off between the county's bootleggers and the corrupt police, lead by Chicago-based federal agent Special Deputy Rakes (Guy Pearce), and it quickly becomes personal, violent, and fueled by revenge. Rounding out the cast is ex-dancer Maggie (Jessica Chastain), who moves to the countryside to escape the violent ways of the city of Chicago, only to find herself surrounded by similar violence.
    The storyline feels run-of-mill despite being based on real people and real events. There really aren't any moments of surprise and shock, as everything unfolds pretty much as expected, all the way up to the very end. So while entertaining and kind of memorable, it's also something that doesn't really rise up it's own trappings and contrivances. Impressive cinematography with outstanding production values don't make up for the fact that their are no real insights into the characters of the "true story"--just leaving us with endless carnage. The final showdown and conclusion is less than satisfying and wraps itself up a little to neatly. It's a respectable film and well-made, but hovers just above mediocrity.
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  14. Jan 18, 2013
    3
    An action that takes the levels of action way to high.
  15. Jan 12, 2013
    5
    A rather simple story with simple folk, must be the reason they cast LaBeouf in it. The Brits (Hardy, Oldman, Taylor) are exellent as always, Aussie Pearce makes a great creepy bad guy and Shia is used as a punching bag most of the time...finally he has found the role he was made for. Let's hope type casting ensues. I was mostly entertained, didn't cry though, laughed when Shia got punched, but it won't be remembered as one of the great films of our time... Expand
  16. Jan 7, 2013
    8
    I am always interested in watching movies made from true stories. This one is about the Bondurant Brothers who survived World War 1, Spanish Flu....& selling Moonshine. Probably the best stellar show by Tom Hardy as far his performance is considered after "Warrior". Even though LaBeouf was the main lead in the movie, his character was over shadowed by Tom. Never expected LaBeouf to do justice to the role, however he tried to give his best and it was average. The other character which will mesmerize you is 'Rakes'. Because Guy Pearce never disappoints as a baddie. Jason Clarke was decent as a supporting brother to Tom.
    If you are expecting violence, guns blazing, drama & powerful performances, go for it. You will not be disappointed.
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  17. Jan 1, 2013
    6
    It was alright. It's slow at times, but reels you in with the action scenes. It can be quite gory at times and unrealistic, but that's the way many movies are nowadays. Good acting as predictable, but the plot struggled at times.
  18. Dec 24, 2012
    6
    If you like the shoot-em-up genre, this one should keep your attention. A decent cast is dragged down by another failed attempt to make a leading man out of Shia LeBeouf. I simply do not understand how this actor gets some of the choice parts that seem to fall into his lap. This is also a weak 6/10 in part due to some scenes that simply are beyond belief. That aside, this is a fairly entertaining rental. Expand
  19. Dec 10, 2012
    10
    Ran across this movie last week. I have watched it at least 25 times now, read the book and did a little ancestry research. Phenomenal casting, soundtrack carries you to the period and the emotion of the time. Compelling cinematography captures the essences of the hard times people managed to thrive and survive. The movie captures the genuineness of the family bond and speaks to the nature and character of the men and women of the era. My Grandfather and his brother were bootleg drivers in Oklahoma/Arkansas/Louisiana. My Grandfather survived, his brother did not, killed while hall white-lighting, in a high speed chase. Have pictures of them, the stills they operated and their stories. This movie brought back a lot of memories, Love the movie, the acting, location, book, history. Expand
  20. Dec 5, 2012
    5
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Un regista australiano emergente, un cast di tutto rispetto, una storia di moonshiners (i distillatori clandestini di whiskey durante il Proibizionismo) ambientata in un Expand
  21. Dec 1, 2012
    3
    The movie was pretty subpar. The plot was very slow moving and not suspenseful at all. Furthermore the story of 3 unknown hill-dwelling bootlegger brothers really isn't very interesting and I'm not sure it necessitates a movie being made. Regarding the shots, I never understood why in the world they had so many closeups. There was also a very bizarre church scene that I did not know the point of. It simply was a movie I could not get into. The acting was good but that's about it. Expand
  22. Nov 29, 2012
    5
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Such a disappointing movie and nothing even remotely close to what the previews made it out to be. For one, this might've been the slowest movie I've seen in years. And while the acting was great, the character development was not and the plot dragged and jumped throughout. Tom Hardy being a BA and Jessica Chastain just being in it were about the only good things in the movie. And after 2 dragging hours, the ending sucked to boot. I'm probably being overly harsh but I expected so much more. Expand
  23. Nov 28, 2012
    8
    John Hillcoat delivers another magnificent drama chock-full of thrilling action, brilliant imagery, and lasting performances from Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, and - most surprisingly - Shia LaBeouf.
  24. Nov 26, 2012
    9
    Highly underrated - very strong narrative, impressive mise en scène and (f)lawless (see what I did there) acting. The ending could be better, but "Lawless" remains a somewhat important movie in my opinion. The quartet's (Hardy, LaBoeuf, Clarke and Pearce) acting alone should make you wanna see this, it's really a masterclass.
  25. Nov 22, 2012
    5
    Lawless was truly a mixed bag of beans. Taking place in prohibition period, this film boasts some fantastic performances from the cast, despite the fact that they were playing largely formulaic characters. My main problem with this movie is Nick Cave
  26. Oct 16, 2012
    8
    Really enjoyed this movie, but also felt it could have been so much better! Cinematography was great, and loved the way it showcased absolutely everything.
  27. Oct 7, 2012
    4
    One would expect all these no doubt fantastic actors to select their projects with concise precision. Their craft is beyond imitation, and their portrayal of characters uniquely defined. It is in fact the dramatic deliverance in this piece that was particularly enjoyable.
    Unfortunately, the screenplay didn't keep up with this bargain. The characters followed a path that was cliché
    at best. There might have been a token surprise here and there, but, let's face it, we've seen this one before.
    I read in a review somewhere that this was a Bonnie and Clide for modern times...wow... Go have a look for yourselves.
    I can't chalk this up as a bad film, though. As I said, the acting was flawless enough to keep me interested, and the cinematography and music was perfectly orchestrated. Perhaps the screenwriters felt it was enough to stamp the "based on a true story" at the opening and just let it coast.
    If you have the patience, wait for the last forty-five minutes of the film. This is when the thing actually becomes semi interesting. And, yes, it all ends as you predicted in the first ten minutes of the movie.
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  28. Oct 5, 2012
    6
    Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf are invincible as bootlegging brothers Forrest and Jack Bondurant in John Hillcoat's Depression-era drama. Involving cinematography and an apt soundtrack ensure Hillcoat's vision of 1920s Virginia is both aesthetically and atmospherically gorgeous, whilst Nick Cave's adapted screenplay offers an entertaining catalogue of bloody brawls, fluttering romances and sprightly moments of comic relief. Raw, energetic and loaded with great performances, Hillcoat's period piece is a real blast. Expand
  29. Oct 5, 2012
    8
    The best film of the year so far, Lawless is as gritty and grisly as they come, as well has having one of my new favourite characters of all time. Hillcoat has refined his style to a little less of the overly long panning landscape shots and a little more action, and it works a treat. All the characters are characters you care about, the story is paced perfectly and the cinematography, though not as inspiring and bold as Hillcoats previous films, is still well above average. Tom Hardy gives a fantastic performance as the grunting, awkward mass bulk that is Forrest Bondurant. Guy Pearce plays the villain, and though it is a little over played, his overall performance is pure sleaze and lends its hand to the underlying humour throughout as well as providing a much needed hate figure (though Shia LeBoeufs character is easily disliked).

    A great film that, if you enjoy a high level of script, acting, direction and cinematography, is a must see.
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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: 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.