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Film Review: Lawless

Nick Cave has done a superb job of bringing Matt Bondurant’s gritty novel about his dubious family history to the screen.

Violent, gruesome, and ferocious, Lawless is a remarkable insight into a period of American history when times were tough but men had to be tougher.

Unlike most tales that glorify bootlegging and paint the criminals as heroes, Lawless has no winners or losers, just a community struggling to quench their thirst against the heat of post-Depression America.

The story follows the Bondurant brothers (Matt Bondurant’s grandfather and grand-uncles), who distilled moonshine and sold it illegally across county Virginia. The boys had plenty of run-ins with the law, and several clashes with knives, guns, and bunches of five to boot.

The film portrays the novel beautifully, but is not for the fainthearted–nothing is softened in Lawless, and at times it can be quite squeamish to watch. The cast is fantastic, acting is good, and the screenplay is compelling, but the most incredible feature of Lawless is the cinematography, which is superb.The depiction of 1920/1930s Virginia is so real that it almost feels like a moving photograph.

Brutal but brilliant, Lawless is a worthy film with a proudly Australian bent.

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