Lawless is a film which I've had my eye on for quite some time since I saw the first trailer around a year ago now, but for one reason or another I never managed to catch the film at cinemas. With a stellar cast, and director John Hillcoat (The Road and The Proposition) handling the film it was one I was quite eager to check out on Blu-Ray, and that's exactly what we did this week.
Set in Franklin County, Virginia, this film takes place during Prohibition-era where the three Bondurant Brothers have their loyalty put to the test when a new Deputy, Charlie Rakes, comes to clean up the county.
What makes Lawless all the more impressive is that this film is based on real events depicted in the book "The Wettest County in the World" which was written by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of one of the three brothers featured in the film. Admittedly Matt based his book on historical photographs and newspaper reports with his grandfather never talking about his family’s history with his family prior to passing away. So while many of the films smaller moments and dialogue are made up this film has a grounding in reality which makes it all the more riveting.
With a runtime of 116 minutes this certainly doesn't seem like a slow film with a brisk pace and constant events keeping the film moving along nicely. With a screenplay from Nick Cave (yes, the singer from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) based on Matt Bondurant's novel, all the characters are given some great moments throughout the film and each actor brings their character to life. Everything else in the film from set design, to costumes and even the blood and gore is top notch.
We must point out too that the Australian Blu-Ray version of Lawless is the uncensored version of the film. While there isn't a massive amount of new scenes, this version does contain some more graphic violence and gore. While it's not relentless what is here is impactful and warrants the MA15+ rating.
Lawless isn't the best film about bootlegging, but it's a fine effort and with such a stellar cast, and story that seems to good to be based on real events (but is), this is definitely worth checking out.
Lawless is presented on Blu-Ray in the films original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and has been encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. According to our PS3 the video bitrate varied wildly from 15Mbps right up to 39Mbps according to the scene however the resultant image always impresses.
Many scenes in this film either take place at night time or in poorly lit indoor areas, but this Blu-Ray transfer handles the fine detail, and especially in darker areas, with little issue. We did notice occasional some very minor artifacts such as colour banding, and occasional contrast issues, but they are so minor they are hardly worth mentioning.
The only other audio option on the Lawless Blu-Ray is an Audio Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired which is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps. Again, it's disappointing that surround sound is dropped out of these soundtracks but the narration is always clear and descriptions accurately describe the on-screen action. A sole Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired track is included and is accurate to the dialogue.
Lawless: The True Story Of The Wettest County In The World (21:33/HD): Here the author of the book, Matt Bondurant, who is the grandson of one of brothers in the film - Jack Bondurant, as well as Director John Hillcoat, Screenwriter Nick Cave (yes, the singer) and other filmmakers and actors detail the real events in Franklin County in the 1930s around which this film is based. It includes archival footage from the era and details many aspects of the film, from the history of the family, to the violence, to the love story, and writing the film. Unfortunately it's a little more about detailing the plot and characters in the film rather than a historical documentary, however it's well produced and still worth checking out.
Franklin County, VA: Then and Now (6:12/HD): This short featurette looks the Franklin County in Virginia, the area where the Moonshine was made, and in which this film is set and why people turned to making Moonshine for a living despite the illegality and risk involved.
The Story Of The Bondurant Family (12:44/HD): Matt Bondurant discusses his process of building this story from newspaper articles and includes several images from his grandparents. This is probably the most interesting featurette on the disc.
"Midnight Run" Willie Nelson Music Video (1:40/HD): It's a Willie Nelson video clip - but contains plenty of spoiler scenes from the film so be mindful not to watch it before the film.
Review By: Dave Warner