SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK review

Starring: Bradley Cooper (The Hangover), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Robert DeNiro (The Godfather Part II), Chris Tucker (Rush Hour)

Writer/Director: David O. Russell (The Fighter)

Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes

Release Date: 21 November (US, UK)

Silver Linings Playbook may well be my favourite movie of the year. Go see it. Like, right now. What are you still reading this for? Go and watch the movie! You’re still here? Fine, read my review and then go see it.

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If I were to sum up Silver Linings Playbook in a nutshell, I would describe it as a romantic comedy starring mental patients. Seriously, the characters of Pat (Cooper) and Tiffany (Lawrence) are two of the most bi-polar, easily angered people I’ve seen in any film. But their main flaw is the film’s greatest strength, as it constantly provides us with both comedic and dramatic situations that can rival any film that only attempts one. The story is formulaic, but it provides enough little twists that it never becomes completely predictable. The film takes a while to get going, but trust me. Once it gets going, you won’t want it to stop.

The performances in this film are phenomenal across the board. I never thought that Bradley Cooper had this much range, but he pulls off the task of playing a psychological mess without fault. Equally matching him is Jennifer Lawrence; I’ve always known she was a great actress, but this makes her previous performances seem like a warm-up. The film truly lightens up whenever they are on screen together, helped by the great script written by Russell. DeNiro gives a great supporting performance as Pat’s dad who is equally nutty and (I never thought I’d say this ever) Chris Tucker is great as Pat’s friend from the mental ward. Why he hasn’t been doing movies like this his entire career, I don’t know.

The film has an odd visual style, one which can grade at times but isn’t bad at all. The cinematography makes constant use of fast zooms and twirling around people. I hate to say it but every time they’d zoom into someone’s face, I expected Mike Myers to chime in with an “EXTREME CLOSE UP! WOAAAAHHHHH!” I was surprised to learn that Danny Elfman did the score, because his music is usually quite memorable but I never actually noticed it here. Again, these are by no means bad things; they’re just minor odd details I noticed.

I never thought I’d see a movie this year that could rival my love for The Cabin in the Woods, but Silver Linings Playbook could well be my favourite. It’s got a great story and stellar performances, and deserves plenty a nod at the Oscars in February. Excelsior!

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

THE MASTER review

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (Signs), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Ides of March), Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Writer/Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

Runtime: 2 hours 22 minutes

Release Date: September 14 (US), November 16 (UK)

I have to admit this: before tonight, I’d never seen a PT Anderson film. I’d always heard about how great his films are, but never actually got round to watching any of them. It’s embarrassing when you know more about Paul WS Anderson than PT Anderson, but that changed tonight. After watching The Master, I’ve got some catching up to do.

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The story of The Master is a simple tale told strangely. Those wondering about the Scientology element, it is obvious how The Cause is a metaphor for it but the film doesn’t try to beat you over the head with it or even tell you it’s bad. The film has an odd quirkiness to it, which while giving it a unique feel makes it feel off-putting at first. The film does a great job of making you care about these characters who, for all intents and purposes, are a bunch of liars and maniacs. This is mainly thanks to the performances, which I’ll get onto in a second. But my main problem with the film is this: the film is too slow and too long. I know I’m not a fan of films that stretch over 2 hours, but this film can feel like an eternity at points. The way the film uses long continuous takes can really stretch out the pace and would often have me thinking in my head “CUT!” I’ve heard this is a trademark of Anderson’s and, while it is effective during certain scenes (especially one set in a jail cell), I found it more boring than moving.

The Master truly shines in the acting department. We haven’t seen Phoenix in a while, and his comeback is a truly explosive one. The character he plays is a washed-up, beaten down, psychotic alcoholic, and Phoenix plays it perfectly. You truly feel that he is this character. Some may say he’s just doing the world’s greatest Popeye impression, but there is much more to it than that. Truly outshining him though is Hoffman as the charismatic Lancaster Dodds. Hoffman plays the role so charismatically that you understand why these people follow him and see him as a genius, which makes it even more surprising when he lashes out in anger. Hoffman definitely deserves an Oscar for his performance here, and Phoenix could easily get a nod as well. Amy Adams is also great as Dodd’s wife, and it’s also good to see that Laura Dern still exists (seriously, where has she been since Jurassic Park?).

This film is beautifully shot, mainly thanks to the use of 70mm film. If you have the option to view the film in this format, do. It truly makes the film look like a relic from the 50’s; giving you that extra detail and making those colours pop out extra nice. As said before though, I think the film could have been cut down a lot more in the editing process, and I often found the score to be a bit overbearing.

The Master is a great film, and should be seen by any film fan. This is one the Oscar crowd are going to eat up come February and, while I do think the film is flawed in several ways, I can understand why they’d love it. It’s worth seeing just for Phoenix and Hoffman, but you’ll enjoy it for much more than that if you’re willing to invest the time and patience.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

SKYFALL review

Starring: Daniel Craig (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Naomie Harris (28 Days Later), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Judi Dench (My Week with Marilyn)

Director: Sam Mendes (American Beauty)

Writers: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (Casino Royale), John Logan (Hugo)

Runtime: 2 hours 23 minutes

Release Date: 26 October (UK), November 9 (US)

It’s been a while since 007 checked into theatres. After the magnificent reboot that was Casino Royale, the disappointing Quantum of Solace quickly followed. The big question on everyone’s mind is which camp does Skyfall fall into? Well, I’m positively delighted to inform you that not only is Skyfall a thousand times better than Quantum, it’s one of the best outings Mr. Bond has ever seen on the silver screen.

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As usual, I’m not going to spoil anything but I can say that the plot of Skyfall is great. It’s an interesting and intriguing tale of revenge, resurrection and betrayal. If you like classic Bond films, this movie has it all. You like car chases; it has several. You like explosions; there are loads. You like dry post-kill one-liners; there’s an abundance. There are many references to the old Bond films from obvious to obscure that should keep fans smiling throughout. The film’s pace in enthralling, making its long runtime pass by in an instant. By the final moments of Skyfall, you will remember why you love Bond so much.

Craig steps back into the role of James Bond and doesn’t miss a beat; he’s as good as ever. The film takes plenty of time to humanise Bond again, ignoring the superhuman machine he was in Quantum. He even gets in a few jokes without making it feel like we’re in a Roger Moore film. Harris delivers well as mandatory Bond girl Eve, and she has some great chemistry with Craig. Dench keeps up her high standard from all her previous Bonds and delivers her most heartfelt performance as M ever. Ben Whishaw is amazing as Q, playing on the youthful aspect of his portrayal well while still channelling the late great Desmond Llewelyn. But the standout here is Javier Bardem as the villain Silva. Bardem takes the cliché Bond villain and makes it fresh again, delivering a threatening yet comical performance in a similar vein to Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. This isn’t a man out to take over the world. This is a man who wants his revenge and will take down anything and everything to get it, even himself if he has to.

For a guy who’s mainly known for doing dramas, Sam Mendes is a great action director. The set pieces here are phenomenal, straddling that fine line between classic, ridiculous Bond and new, grounded Bond. You could question some of the logic, but it looks so well done that you don’t care. This is mainly thanks to the gorgeous cinematography courtesy of Mr. Roger Deakins. This film looks beautiful on every level, using lighting and shadows perfectly to make every moment and location feel unique. Scenes set in Shanghai and the final moments in the moors of Scotland look particularly terrific. Deakins also understands something most action directors don’t get these days: when shooting a brawl, you keep the camera pulled back so you can see everything. The Expendables, this is not. Top it all of with a great score (though I’m still not too fond of Adele’s theme for the film), and you’ve got a presentation that skyrockets this film’s quality immensely.

Mr. Bond has reported for duty, and he has served us well. Skyfall is not just an amazing Bond film; it is an amazing film in general. The film makes Bond feel relevant and new without forgetting what made those old Bond films work. It’s not the Bourne rip-off that Quantum of Solace often felt like; this is a James Bond film through-and-through. Sam Mendes has set a high bar for the films to follow, and I can’t wait to join 007 on his next adventure, whenever or wherever that may be.

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS review

Starring: Colin Farrell (Phone Booth), Sam Rockwell (Moon), Christopher Walken (Pulp Fiction), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland)

Director/Writer: Martin McDonagh (In Bruges)

Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes

Release Date: October 12 (US), December 7 (UK)

Seven Psychopaths is the second feature from former playwright Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed the Oscar-winning short Six Shooter and the feature In Bruges. With this new outing, he continues his penchant for making crime films with a very quirky sense of humour and makes what may be his best work yet and one of the best films of the year.

The plot of the film is pretty preposterous, but considering the outlandish tone of the film it fits. The film moves along well, mainly thanks to it following the Airplane! rule of comedy: keep throwing jokes so fast that the audience doesn’t notice the duds. The film is incredibly quotable and full of memorable moments, making for a script that never stops delivering. The film also uses meta humour, though not as blatantly as something like The Cabin in the Woods or Scream. The film uses this brand of comedy to deconstruct the thriller genre, often mimicking events that eventually play out in the film. This is most often seen in reconstructions of scenes from Marty’s (Farrell) screenplay or someone telling a gruesome tale, and all of them are so ridiculous that you won’t stop chuckling. All I can say negative (and it doesn’t detract points because it’s not the film’s fault) is that the trailer does lie quite a bit, but it’s one of those rare cases where it’s done to keep some of the film’s mysteries quiet instead of trying to make something crap look better.

The cast of Seven Psychopaths is phenomenal and all deliver great performances. Farrell gives one of his career bests, Walken is consistently laugh out loud hilarious (though I often wonder how aware of it he is), Harrelson plays f***ing nuts to the nth degree, and Tom Waits is pretty funny too in his brief role. But the standout here is Sam Rockwell. Everything that comes out of his mouth is funny, quirky and utterly insane. He’s the kind of character that if played by another actor and badly written could become just an annoying prat, but Rockwell and McDonagh know how to keep it reeled in just enough that it remains humorous. Rockwell’s performance easily rivals his performance in Moon, and that’s saying something.

Comedies are hardly ever the most technically astounding movies, and Seven Psychopaths is no different. While the film is very violent and features some creative kills, this isn’t exactly Die Hard but it’s not trying to be. The movie does have a pretty decent soundtrack, but other than that there’s not much to say, but that’s most certainly not a bad thing.

Seven Psychopaths is one of the best movies of the year. I know I’ve been saying that a lot in my past few reviews, but I mean it. The film is furiously funny and cleverly uses it’s humour to pick apart the classic Hollywood thriller. You’d have to be an utter psychopath to miss this one.

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

ARGO review

Starring: Ben Affleck (The Town), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski)

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Chris Terrio

Runtime: 2 hours

Release Date: 12 October (US), 7 November (UK)

Ah, Ben Affleck. You’ve had an interesting career, haven’t you? After getting your start in Kevin Smith films, you won that Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon. Then something happened, didn’t it? You were in a bunch of crap like Pearl Harbour and Gigli before disappearing for a little while. But then you came back and decided to be a director. We all laughed at first, but then your movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town ended up being absolutely brilliant. So with Argo, you’re attempting to get that third straight home run. Did you succeed?

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The story of Argo is so unbelievable that it has to be true, and luckily it is. The tale is extremely intriguing and it’s hard to believe that the CIA actually managed to pull this off. The film effectively uses classic thriller-style tension to create a genuine feeling of uncertainty, and also has a really good sense of humour that never feels too out of place (“You want to be a big shot without actually doing anything? You’ll fit right in!”). The film is also paced very well, making the two-hour run time fly by swiftly. All of this is down to Affleck’s strong direction. With Argo, the man manages to prove he can direct pretty much anything with a level of competency most full-time directors would envy. If he can keep it up, Affleck could easily be up there with Clint Eastwood in a couple of years.

Not a man to put himself completely out of the spotlight, Affleck also starts as protagonist Tony Mendez. While it might have been wise for him to focus on his directorial duties (as well as the fact that Affleck bears no resemblance to the real Mendez), he delivers an effective performance. But it’s the supporting cast of the film that really shines. Bryan Cranston shows he can be as commanding a presence on the big screen as he is on TV. John Goodman and Alan Arkin provide some great laughs as the primary comic relief. And Scoot McNairy appears as one of the fugitives, again showing he has a bright future in film.

Argo is a technically proficient film. The cinematography is gripping, and not just because it effectively matches the real footage of the hostage crisis. The editing is fast and fierce, but not so much so that the film becomes incomprehensible. The score works well, and the film makes great use of the music of the 70’s for certain scenes.

Well Mr. Affleck, you did it. You’re three for three, and it just so happens that your third is also one of the best films of 2012. I’m predicting some major Oscar nods come nomination time. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be up on that stage in February collecting that golden statue yet again. Good on you, sir.

And you were the bomb in Phantoms.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10

THE SESSIONS review

Starring: John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone), Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets), William H. Macy (Fargo), Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation)

Director/Writer: Ben Lewin (Georgia)

Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes

Release Date: 19 October (US), 18 January (UK)

I got the great opportunity to go to the UK premiere of The Sessions last night; director Ben Lewin and stars John Hawkes and Helen Hunt were in attendance and gave a Q&A afterwards. But enough of my bragging, how was the movie? Simply put, The Sessions is one of the best films of 2012 and needs to be seen by anyone who enjoys film.

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The story of The Sessions is, while based on a true story, humorously absurd. The film is very well written and full of some cracking quotable dialogue (“Why go to Germany? It’s the only place in the world where having a sense of humour is illegal.”) The pace of the film is just right; not so fast that it flies by, but not so slow that you start checking your watch. But the main reason the film works is because it makes the main character of Mark (Hawkes) completely sympathetic and compelling. It’s easy for a film like this to just go “He’s disabled, so you have to like him”, but the film makes Mark such an interesting character that he would have been a great protagonist if he had been a perfectly healthy human being.

But the main reason Mark works as a protagonist is because of the powerhouse performance of Hawkes. For an actor who spends the entire movie only moving his head, he brings so much to the table here that you can’t help but cry “Give this man an Oscar!”. Just as great is Hunt in the role of Cheryl; she greatly compliments Hawkes and they have really good chemistry. By the end of the movie, you are really hoping that their relationship will work out, but you know it can’t. As the main comic relief of the film, William H. Macy is fantastic as Mark’s priest. His deadpan delivery and incompetence create some knee-slapping moments that help to alleviate the more heartfelt moments.

On a technical level, there’s not much to say. The film is shot well, but there’s no amazing camera work. The music is fitting, but not exactly memorable. But The Sessions isn’t that kind of film; it’s trying to wow you with its drama, not its technical wizardry.

I can’t say this enough: The Sessions is one of the best movies of the year and should be seen at your earliest opportunity. The film doesn’t open for a while in the UK, but as soon as it does get to the theatre. You won’t regret it.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10

SINISTER review

Starring: Ethan Hawke (Training Day), Vincent D’Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket), James Ransone (The Next Three Days), Juliet Rylance

Director: Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)

Writers: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill

Runtime: 1 hour 50 minutes

Release Date: October 5th (UK), October 12th (US)

Good horror films are hard to come by these days; they just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Everything is either found footage, torture porn, or a remake. But then comes Sinister, an interesting beast that combines both classic and modern scares to create a film that should have you whimpering in your seat by the end.

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The story of Sinister is simple and easy-to-follow. The majority of the story stays confined to a single house and we are very closely tied to the main character of Ellison (Hawke). The film uses the found footage concept as a story device rather than an excuse and creates a mixture of filmmaking techniques to create something different and unsettling. The film’s start is a little plodding, providing not enough story or thrills. But about halfway through the second reel, the film kicks into gear and becomes both engaging and terrifying. The conclusion may leave some disappointed, but you won’t leave completely unsatisfied.

The entire film is held together from start to finish by a tremendous performance by Hawke. His character is both reckless and determined, putting aside everything for his goal. You feel everything he feels: from his frustration with his family to his utter shock when he sees something horrific. It’s good that he delivers so well because they rest of the cast is so-so. Ransone does decent work as a local deputy, and D’Onofrio’s role is important but little more than a cameo. The main sore spot is Juliet Rylance as Ellison’s wife; she’s just too overdramatic and doesn’t sell her lines in a way that makes me believe her grief as much as Hawke manages to. I’ve looked into her history to find she’s mainly a stage actress, which does explain a lot.

But what about the scares? That’s what you watch horror for, right? I’m glad to say the killings in Sinister are as ingenious and inventive as anything you’ve seen in a Saw movie, but much more believable and not as ridiculous. A kill involving a lawnmower is particularly gut wrenching. Like any good horror movie, it doesn’t show you everything; only enough to create a mental image that’s probably scarier. The cinematography is basic but effective, whilst the found footage photography looks completely genuine. The score, meanwhile, becomes very overbearing at points particularly during the found footage scenes; I thought it would be much scarier if they left those sections silent.

In conclusion, Sinister is a great horror film that I can see myself watching during Halloween movie nights. It stumbles and falls into a couple of traps, but always picks itself up and keeps moving. See it if you can handle it.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

FRANKENWEEINE review

Starring: Charlie Tahan (I Am Legend), Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice), Martin Short (Three Amigos), Martin Landau (Ed Wood)

Director: Tim Burton (Batman)

Writer: John August (Big Fish)

Runtime: 1 hour 27 minutes

Release Date: October 5th (US), October 17th (UK)

Tim Burton certainly has had a mixed career, hasn’t he? He’s made amazing films such as Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands, but then he does Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes. So when something new from Burton’s warped mind comes along, I always have hope but must remain sceptical. But put down your torches and pitchforks, because his latest creation Frankenweenie is alive and here to stay.

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If you know the basics of the original Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein, then you know the basics of this. But it’s the unique spin Burton puts on the tale that makes it great. The connection the film makes between Victor (Tahan) and his dog Sparky is tremendous and sucks you in almost immediately. The film is full of horror references as obvious as Dracula and as obscure as Gamera; classic horror fans will find this a treat. The film is very short, so the movie does go by quickly but rightly so considering its fast pace.

The cast is made up of Burton regulars, but surprisingly absent are his super-regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (guess they were off doing The Lone Ranger without their precious master). But the cast here is perfectly fine. Charlie Tahan does well as the lead, but he didn’t blow my socks off. Ryder and Short also do commendable work, particular Short’s character of Nassor (who uses a great Boris Karloff voice). But the standout amongst the cast is Martin Landau as the science teacher; not only is the design of his character unique, but Landau gives this character so much life that you can’t take your eyes off him. Pity he’s only in a handful of scenes.

The stop-motion here is classic Burton. If you’re familiar with The Nightmare Before Christmas or Corpse Bride, you know what his style is and it continues to work here. Like with most recent stop-motion, CG is used to enhance certain scenes, but it doesn’t detract from the countless hours of work the animators put into creating this world. As usual, Danny Elfman provides the score and, while very familiar, is as eerie and awesome as ever.

Like how Victor Frankenstein repaired his beloved dog, Frankenweenie has repaired my faith in Tim Burton. This is his best film in over a decade and should be seen by anyone who loves a good time at the movies. I know every time this year I’ve reviewed an animated movie, I said it was the best one, but this time I mean it. Go see this movie!

FINAL VERDICT: 8.5/10

KILLING THEM SOFTLY review

Starring: Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Scoot McNairy (Monsters), Ben Mendelsohn (The Dark Knight Rises)

Writer/Director: Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Release Date: 21 September (UK), 30 November (US)

Well, here’s one that kind of came out of nowhere. Having heard very little about this movie (mainly due to its delayed release in the US), I went in knowing nothing the trailer didn’t tell me. What I ended up watching was one of the best films of the year.

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This is a bleak film. Very bleak. Bleak in almost every single way it could be. There is no relief from the bleakness other than a lot of dry humour, but it’s all about bleak stuff. Did I use the word bleak already? Anyway, the film’s plot is pretty simple once you get right down to it, but it’s all hidden under an odd structure. Our protagonist Jackie Cogan (Pitt) doesn’t show up until twenty minutes in, and the first act of the film mainly focuses on the petty crooks Frankie (McNairy) and Russell (Mendelsohn). It makes sense in the end why the story is told like this, even if it’s initially a little jarring. The film also has a very prominent social and political message, emphasised by the fact the film is set during the run up to the 2008 US presidential election. The constant sounds of Obama talking about hope and coming together as a nation whilst we watch scenes showing the downtrodden and broken slums of New Orleans really puts things into perspective and shows how America isn’t as rose-tinted as its media suggests, which is pointed out heavily during the final scene between Pitt and Jenkins.

The performances by the entire cast are stellar. Pitt is as great as ever, creating a protagonist who is likable despite his trade, mainly because he knows what he does isn’t exactly right. McNairy and Mendelsohn are really great as the inept crooks we follow at first, and I hope they get more high profile work after this. Gandolfini, while still acting as if he’s in The Sopranos, delivers a great performance as a drunken mess of a criminal. Jenkins and Liotta’s parts are minimal but effective, and this is probably the best I’ve seen Liotta in years.

Killing Them Softly isn’t an action movie, but its scenes of violence are brutal and wince inducing. This is mainly down to the incredible sound design; every punch and every gunshot feels real and makes you jerk in your seat. A scene where Liotta gets the crap beaten out of him is particularly memorable and bloody. The film also makes great use of slo-mo (in a way very reminiscent of Dredd) during a scene that combines the three coolest things you can shoot in slo-mo: guns, rain and broken glass. The cinematography is very simple but gloomy, matching the tone of the film. The soundtrack is made up entirely of licensed music, and it fits the mood well.

In the end, Killing Them Softly is a fantastic crime film. It’s filled with memorable moments and great performances from all key players. If it ends up on my Top Ten at the end of the year, I wouldn’t be surprised. Go see it soon; just don’t expect to come out feeling warm and fuzzy (especially if you’re American).

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

LAWLESS review

Starring: Shia LaBoeuf (Transformers), Tom Hardy (Inception), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Guy Pearce (Memento)

Director: John Hillcoat (The Road)

Writer: Nick Cave

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release Date: 31 August (US), 7 September (UK)

It took me a while to get round to seeing Lawless, but now that the release schedule has died down a bit, I had the time to catch this one before it fades out of theatres. It seems a little late to review it because if you were interested, you probably saw it already, but I’ll throw in my two cents anyway.

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If I had to sum up Lawless in one word, that word would be ‘inconsistent’. There are moments in this film that are great but, like a hick hopped up on moonshine, it stumbles far too often. The film starts out well and quickly (maybe too quickly) establishes the key players and their motives. Then the movie takes a nap until the end of the second act. Sure, stuff happens but it’s all done at the pace of a pleasant Sunday stroll in the park. Characters walk out of the movie and don’t show up again for ages, and despite the decent running time the subplots don’t feel as tied up as the ending wants you to think they are. When the movie finally gets going again, it starts to become really good. But then the film ends on this sugary sweet ending and it just doesn’t seem right. If you want a satisfying ending, walk out before the last five minutes; it won’t feel as jarring.

What really saves the movie from being mediocre are two things. Firstly, the performances are superb across the board. This is arguably LaBoeuf’s finest performance, but compared to everyone else he looks as amateurish as a 15 year old in a high school rendition of Bugsy Malone. Hardy is as strong as ever, and delivers his lines in a Southern twang comparable to Jeff Bridges in True Grit, but still understandable without the use of subtitles. Jessica Chastain also keeps up her winning streak, though her role falters due to lack of development. Gary Oldman shows up every now and again, but despite his best efforts he seems mostly irrelevant. But the standout here is Guy Pearce as the villain. He is so slimy and ruthless that you come to love every single frame he’s on screen. His performance often borders on the cartoonish, but then he beats the crap out of someone and you suddenly remember this guy can do some serious damage. His performance alone is worth the price of admission.

The other great thing about this film is the violence. This movie is much darker than the publicity suggests, and I was wincing at certain moments. Within the first five minutes, Hardy beats a guy half to death with some brass knuckles, and what follows after that gets even more gruesome. It all comes together at the end for a shoot-out that’s very reminiscent of Bonnie & Clyde. The other technical aspects of the film work, but none are truly memorable. I found the editing strange at certain points; it definitely seems like they got enough angles to cover all the scenes, but I feel they don’t use the right shots at certain points. The music itself works fine and fits with the tone, but whenever they use anything with lyrics, it feels very off-putting.

To sum up, Lawless is a decent film, but it could have been so much more. With a script rewrite by a more experienced writer, this could have been an Oscar contender. But I must judge the film for what it is, and it is a film with great performances and some gruesome violence but falls apart in the structure and pacing department. See it if you still haven’t, but don’t be disappointed if you miss it before it gets dropped from your theatre.

FINAL VERDICT: 6.5/10