Lawless follows the three Bondurant brothers, who make moonshine in 1920s Virginia. It's based on the novel The Wettest County in the World, by Matt Bondurant, which in turn is based on the author's real-life grandfather. The movie combines a great soundtrack, exceptional acting performances, and an interesting story, and it ended up far exceeding my expectations.

Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) is the oldest Bondurant brother, and he takes care of his brothers Jack (Shia LaBeouf) and Howard (Jason Clarke) by including them in the moonshine business. Jack figures out a way to produce even more moonshine per day, and business is good for the brothers. When a new man, Mason Wardell (Tim Tolin) comes to town, however, he brings with him a man from Chicago, Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), and they want the Bondurant brothers to pay them a "toll" of sorts for still being allowed to transport moonshine across the county; the brothers have always had an "arrangement" with the law, but Wardell seeks to insert himself as the middle man. Forrest, being stubborn, refuses, and that's when things start to get ugly.

Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Guy Pearce (The King's Speech) were both fantastic in this movie, and Shia LaBeouf, who is supposed to be the main character, did a great job as well. Jessica Chastain (The Help) has a supporting role too, as a woman that Forrest hires for their tavern who he later gets involved with, and Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) too as a religious girl who Jack tries to court. Even though the film is mostly a dramatic one, Hardy had the ability to make the audience laugh with even one line, or a grunt or snort, and I liked how they interspersed these moments with all of the killing and grisly moments in the film. The boys all have thick Southern accents and are sometimes hard to understand, but Hardy is still easier to hear than he was as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Yes, see this movie. Be aware that it easily earns its "R" rating - nudity, bloodshed, and language pervade the film. The story is fast-paced and moves along quickly, and I loved the music as well - it was mostly twangy country tunes throughout. I also liked that the film was based on a true story. I'm not sure I could sit through Lawless a second time because of all its gory scenes, but it's definitely a film you don't want to miss.

Lawless is in theaters today, August 29, and is rated R with a runtime of 115 minutes. 4.5 stars out of 5.

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