It's rather easy to push powerful negativity towards a film for not being the greatest thing in the world, but there are some films that quite honestly aren't looking for that. It's hard to think that of them when they're in a competition to prove themselves better than the rest, but we'll forget about that requisite of the Cannes festival in the case of John Hillcoat's "Lawless". Word around the festival has been rather mixed, but I've heard enough good assessments to not discount this picture altogether. I very much look forward to the chance of checking it out once it turns the corner come August, so I'll just have to depend on these reviews as reassurance until then.
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "It might sound the most backhanded of compliments to begin a film review with praise for its hairdressing, but here goes: John Hillcoat's brisk, bloody and sharply appointed Prohibition thriller "Lawless" is the most immaculately barbered film in recent memory. From the pragmatically shaved planes of Tom Hardy's short-back-and-sides to Shia LaBeouf's dandily pomaded undercut to Guy Pearce's unforgivingly skunky centre-right parting, no tonsorial decision in this robust period piece has been idly or accidentally made, every style revealing something of the wearer's designs, demographic and disposition."
David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter): "Without exactly glorifying their outlaw heroes, Hillcoat and Cave definitely keep us in their corner, showing even their most violent actions to be driven by self-protection or payback, never merely by malice. The most memorable of them is somber Forrest, whose dialogue is delivered from somewhere way back in Hardy’s throat, often as barely more than an inarticulate rumble. But from in amongst those animal growls spout occasional pearls of outlaw wisdom, such as “It is not the violence that sets a man apart, it’s the distance he is prepared to go.”"
Owen Gleiberman (Entertainment Weekly): "Directed by Australia’s John Hillcoat, who made the overrated art Western The Proposition and then turned the movie version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road into heavy lifting, Lawless is basically a made-for-TV gangster movie in cornpone accents. It’s got a very weak script (at one point, Jessica Chastain shows up to keep house for the brothers, and she’s given barely any motivation beyond the fact that…well, the movie needs a pretty girl), and Hillcoat lays on the cloying fiddle-and-banjo music and the quaintly second-hand “mythological” gloss. Every festival has the right to its duds, but I was surprised when I suddenly realized that Lawless isn’t a bad Cannes film — it’s a bad Sundance film."