The Crying Game
A Few Good Men
Scent of a Woman
And the winner: Unforgiven
Say Unforgiven didn't exist and Lawless came out in August of 1992. Lawless probably would have won Best Picture, since it pretty much cribs Unforgiven.
Director: John Hillcoat
Grumbles: Tom Hardy
Is back to being second-in-command: Shia LaBeouf
Looks like a hawk: Jason Clarke
HOLY SHIT: Guy Pearce
HOLY SHIT: Jessica Chastain
Alice out of Wonderland: Mia Waslkowska
Winks: Gary Oldman
What It's Good For:
-wearing Unforgiven's skin
-hints of surrealism
-something to go to the theater to see and be fine with having gone to the theater to watch it
-wears Unforgiven's skin
-my cat could see how the story was going to unfold; predictable
-first scene makes you think Hardy is going to do a lot of awesome stuff...he doesn't
-maybe not as good as you were hoping it would be
Let me start by saying this. I don't think Unforgiven is a great movie. I think the 1992 candidates for Best Picture were weak.
So comparing Lawless to Unforgiven isn't, coming from me, high praise.
Let's look at the comparisons.
In both there is a veteran actor playing an aggressive, antagonizing antagonist. And this AAA unites the three main characters.
How do the three main characters stack up?
In both movies there are two Respected Veterans. And then the Young Gun. The Young Gun is out to prove himself, and the Respected Veterans get dragged in to the Young Gun's whirlpool of enthusiasm. Of course, this crescendoes with tragedy.
In Unforgiven, the tragedy befalls good ol' Morgan Freeman. Who, in the realm of Unforgiven, is the...handicapped character. By that, I mean he's a black man in the 1880s. If you're not familiar with the 1880s, this is still during the time of Great Douche-dom, when people were raised racist and live rasictly and allowed to get away with it.
In Lawless, we're in the late 1920s early 1930s. Tragedy befalls, this time, someone who is quite literally handicapped. Dane DeHaan = Cricket. The comparison is a little ridiculous: a black man during racist times versus a kid who had rickets and has a limp. But I think this is an important distinction between the two films. Unforgiven milked...everything. Dead wife. Single parent trying to do right. Reformed gunman turned mourning widower. Best friend is murdered. Best friend happens to be a black man during racist times when having a black friend was asking for trouble (because people were dumb). The triumvirate of heroes is fighting to defend the honor of prostitutes who are being taken advantage of by the brutes in town. Okay, really, they're fighting for money, but that's at the beginning; by the end, they're fighting for revenge, the same as the prostitutes (each in their own way).
In short, Unforgiven is pretty blatant exploitation of human emotion. Lawless doesn't sink so low. But it's singing the same song. Cricket is killed. While he doesn't represent an era of American History the same way Freeman's character did, he still represents someone who is a type of minority, someone who is discriminated against, being ruthlessly murdered by an AAA. In Unforgiven, a prostitute is fucked up, raped and disfigured, which is the catalyzing action of the film. Lawless wait until midway, then there is a rape. No disfigurement. No group of prostitutes. A single woman, Maggie (Chastain), who we're told was "a dancer". This is also a distinction.
By milking everything, Unforgiven takes on an "epic" air. Lawless is, simply put, a simpler movie.
Cricket and Howard (Clarke) double as a simpler version of the two aspects of Morgan Freeman's Logan: Martyr and Right-Hand Man. Maggie is a simpler version of the stable of prostitutes. Hardy's Forrest is a simpler version of Clint Eastwood (they even both have a rasp). Special Agent Rakes is nasty like Little Bill. Both are law enforcement people. In fact, the AAA is probably the one spot where Lawless goes as big as Unforgiven. Both movies have a final shootout, and, come on, what word describes the Lawless shootout any better than "simple". There's a whole bunch of people shooting, only three hit, and it's all over in like..35 seconds.
Let me begin the conclusion by saying this: I like Lawless better than Unforgiven.
And don't think Lawless isn't aware of Unforgiven. At one point, Forrest is talking to someone, I think the local police chief, and the chief asks Forrest if he can't let it go, and Forrest says "There's a lot that can't be forgiven." Might as well have turned to the camera and winked and nodded.
Why do I like Lawless better than Unforgiven?
Because I thought Unforgiven, given its "milk" factor, was trying WAY TOO HARD to be an emotional film. It felt like such a manufactured situation, geared to reap emotional feedback from the viewer in blatant ways. Lawless isn't so shameless. And I respect that. Though I don't think either are creative. One relies on tropes and known emotional triggers. The other appropriates the same tropes and emotional triggers but in a watered-down manner.
Really, I wouldn't have given the Best Picture award to Unforgiven. Nor would I give it to Lawless if it were a 1992 film. But, by golly, if Unforgiven won, whoever was voting that year probably would have been ridiculous enough to vote for Lawless. Clint Eastwood played a character named Will Munny who was exactly like Clint Eastwood and got nominated for Best Actor. Well, he won Best Director too (maybe because the movie filmed in 39 days). So maybe I'm not considering the Clint Eastwood-Factor here (rumor had it this was his last film directing and acting, too). Remove him, and maybe Unforgiven loses all its nominations. I just think the voting that year was...insane? If voters were swayed by such...intense and salty melodrama, I think Lawless, being a middle-class man's carbon copy, would have charmed the Academy in Unforgiven's stead.
Did I Like It:
Sure. It wasn't as cool as I thought it'd be. I thought the first scene made it seem like Hardy was going to spout off a ton of philosophic stuff and be violent, but neither of these things escalate. The thing that escalates from the first scene: Shia LeBeouf's character. In fact, if anything, Hardy's Forrest sort of...drifts out of the picture the further the movie plugs along. And I didn't really care about Shia. I knew his character arc from the get-go: out to prove himself, will do stupid stuff, have success, set-up for failure, then gets revenge. I had no idea where Forrest would go. And it wasn't really anywhere. There was the injection of surrealism, via the myth the family was indestructible. That was cool. But...how's this escalate? Forrest, the most bad ass character in the film, does what in the climax? He gets shot a handful of times, and collapses. Cool.
I love Jessica Chastain. I've watched her in five movies now, and I think she's been unique in all five movies. I'm convinced she works really fucking hard to get into the mindset of her character. And I think she does great work.
GUY PEARCE. One. I had no idea it was Guy Pearce. Two. Whoa. Three. He's my vote for Best Supporting Actor. Four. Get your woman on the floor.
I don't know if I'd ever care to watch it again?
I thought Shia did an alright job! I think it's funny he went from leading man to being secondary side-kick. In fact, the entire story of Lawless could be a re-telling of Shia's career. I like viewing Lawless as that kind of metaphor.
The ending underwhelmed me.
% Character / % Actor's personality / Uniqueness Grade
(subjective to my knowledge)
Dane DeHaan: 90/10/A
-Hardy having an interesting voice: The Dark Knight Rises; Warrior
-LaBeouf being an underling: Constantine; I, Robot; Constantine; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Shitty Movie; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
-Pearce being awesome: Count of Monte Cristo; L.A. Confidential; Memento; The Road; Animal Kingdom
-Prohibition movies that do the exact same fucking thing as this movie, pitting law enforcement versus rum runners: Some Like it Hot; The Untouchables; Public Enemies; The Public Eye; The Great Gatsby