Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: 4/5

The gangster genre is one of the most exciting and violent movie genres and has given us some of the most memorable films and characters over the years.

Lawless sees John Hillcoat return to the director's chair as he brings Matt Bondurant's book The Wettest County In The World To Life.

Yes the movie is about fighting the law and killing the bad guy as the next gangster movie but it is also about family ties that are tested to the limit.

Set in the 1920s prohibition-era America, Lawless is the true story of the Bondurant brothers. Brazen and fearless, these young rural bootleggers became legendary criminals.

The youngest brother, Jack (LaBeouf) is ambitious and impulsive, the middle brother, Howard (Jason Clarke), is loyal but reckless and eldest brother, Forrest (Hardy), leads the family with a silent determination.

As the Bondurants’ illicit business and legend grows, so too looms the danger of bigger fish, and it’s not long before the brothers must face the consequences.

Sure this is a story that we have seen a hundred times before but never has it been this violent and this engrossing.

It is compelling from start to finish and Hillcoat doesn't flinch when it comes to depicting the violence it what is a fantastically bloody and brutal movie.

Lawless may be exciting and violent and so on but it is the characters in the movie that make it so gripping.

Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce are the standout performers in the movie and it would have been great to see them come face to face a little more often in the movie.

Hardy is a fierce anti-hero who is loyal to his family and his way of life while Pearce is a cruel man of the city who is trying to get the countryside under control.

And while the Bondurant brothers are breaking the law they are really likeable and loyal and they really do become the heroes of the piece while it is the police that are portrayed as the savage villains.

However Shia LaBeouf's character is a tad annoying and he is perhaps a tad mis-cast while there is a desperate under use of Gary Oldman - which is a major shame.

But it is Hardy that really does dominate this movie in what is another great turn from the actor. Despite being the quiet man he has a great presence in every scene and you can see an anger and an violence bubbling away inside.

John Hillcoat well and truly brings this era to life in a movie that has some incredible production design - it really does look fantastic.

The story on the whole works well however the love interest sections for both Hardy and LaBeouf's characters are a little bit of a distraction and never really fully explored.

Lawless is an engaging movie from beginning to end as Hillcoat superbly captures the struggles that many faced during that time.

But the film isn't able to sustain the tension throughout so the down moments do seem to impact on the pace of what is otherwise a great movie.

Lawless is out now

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

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