Anyone who's spent time listening to Nick Cave's musical back catalogue will feel on familiar ground watching Lawless. The perverse, sexually-tinged violence, hair-trigger firearms, macho bravado, casual murder, strong liquor and hard knocks that permeate his songs are equally evident in his screenplay adaptation of Matt Bondurant's The Wettest Country In The World.
Bondurant's historical novel tells the story of the author's grandfathers and granduncles, who ran an illicit moonshine operation in Prohibition-era Franklin County, Virginia. In the film, the three Bondurant brothers are fleshed out by Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke, with Guy Pearce's terrifying Special Agent Charlie Rakes providing their main source of opposition. And a psychologically and physically sadistic opposition it is too; there's no sense he is upholding prohibition legislation because he believes it's the right thing to do - law enforcer is simply the path offering him the greatest scope for enjoying himself.
Supported by heart-stoppingly exciting set-pieces, and a thrilling sense of impending nastiness which bleeds through scene after scene, the sheer deliciousness of the knockout performances shines through. Physicality is everything in Lawless-land, and it's the visceral kicks that will ultimately get this film seen by the audience it deserves.
In a nutshell: A pumped-up, Hollywood-flavoured neo-Gothic Western delivering knockout performances and raw, corporeal thrills.
By Catherine Bray