Double Feature: Lawless/Killing Them Softly – Blu-ray Edition

lawless killing them softly

Lawless directed by John Hillcoat:

An odd but enjoyable mix was what Lawless was for me. John Hillcoat’s (The Road, The Proposition) film is filled with violence, humour, tension, and good storytelling. All these things are bookended by the performances of the good guy (Tom Hardy) and the very icky bad guy (Guy Pearce – Prometheus, The Hurt Locker). Without these two the middle stuff would be afloat without any direction. The two performances could not be more different. Tom Hardy’s is completely minimalist. Bringing cool but scary to a new level, he probably grunted (with a few of them garnering laughter from a couple of members of the audience) more that he spoke. It has been very interesting so far watching Hardy’s career develop. All the way on the other end of the spectrum was Guy Pearce’s performance. Talk about over the top and chewing up the scenery. Pearce was the bad guy and he wrung every ounce of creepy and evil out of it that he could. Black shoe polish in his hair, leather gloves, no eyebrows and a very creepy way of speaking. A fearless and entertaining performance. What all these aspects do is grab hold of your attention and do not let go for almost two hours.

Amidst all the gritty realism of the film is the beauty of how it looks.  The colours explode off the screen as the camerawork is so sharp. The sets are authentic and the costumes are not only accurate but also look used, if you know what I mean.  This beauty is juxtaposition with the violence of the film. Plenty of heads are cracked, bodies are pierced by bullets, faces are beaten to a pulp, and even a neck is slashed. Obviously the prop guy was kept busy producing the litres of fake blood spilled. At times you have to turn away from the screen because the violence is so gruesome.

Not a deep film. You won’t leave it thinking about the meaning of life or anything like that. It is just violent and entertaining. Certainly not original but that did not matter in this instance.

Based on a true story about the three Bondurant brothers, Jack (Shia LaBeouf – Transformers, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Forrest (Tom Hardy – Warrior, Inception) and Howard (Jason Clarke – Public Enemies, Death Race), who run a bootlegging operation in the backwoods of Virginia during Prohibition. It sounds like a story that we’ve all seen a million times. Redneck brothers try to keep one step ahead of the authorities. Criminals who we end up siding with despite the fact that they are just as violent as the bad guys and what they are doing is illegal.

Special Features:

-Digital Copy

-Deleted Scenes

-Lawless: The True Story of the Wettest County in the World

-Franklin County, Virginia: Then & Now

-The Story of the Bondurant Family

-Music Video: “Midnight Run” by Willie Nelson

Killing them Softly directed by Andrew Dominik:

I have been writing film reviews for over 7 years now and this is one of the few time I am really at a loss for words.  Meaning that I really do not know what to say about this Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)/Brad Pitt venture. It certainly was different and it had a fairly simple story and yet…I’m still at a loss for words.  I can’t quite figure out what they were going for.

Former con Johnny Amato (Vincent Curatola – from television’s The Sopranos) has an idea for the perfect robbery.  He tells another former con, Frankie (Scoot McNairy – Argo, Bobby), to find a partner.  He comes up with Aussie Russell (Ben Mendelsohn – The Dark Knight Rises, Animal Kingdom), who Johnny is not thrilled with due to his sarcastic attitude, but Frankie vouches for him.  The plan is that they are going to rob a set up, Mob protected big stakes card game and get away with it because the man, Markie (Ray Liotta – Goodfellas, Smokin’ Aces), who organizes the games has previously robbed them.  When the closed (meaning no one knows about them) games are robbed for a second time Markie is going to naturally be the prime suspect.  No one is going to look for anyone else.

The card games are shut down and the local underground crime community suffers.  It is already a tough economic time in the United States.  Answers and quickly are needed.  The mob hires hitman Jackie (Brad Pitt – Se7en, Inglorious Basterds) to get to the bottom of what happened.  He figures out pretty quickly after having Markie beaten within an inch of his life that it was an outside job.  Now he just has to figure out who is behind it.

Stylistically Dominik’s film feels straight out the 70s.  It has that look and feel to it.  The visuals are very grimy and the script is as unforgiving as nails.  There is tons of black humour to be found.  It is a crime film that is in no way typical of the genre.

Despite all the stylized camerawork and quirky characters what really threw me about the film was the whole political/economic message.  In the background either visually on a television screen playing in the background or via voiceover courtesy of George Bush and Barack Obama there was ongoing speeches going on about the state of American politics and the economy at the time.  The film obviously takes place during the recent crash of the American economy when plenty of citizens were suffering financially (2008).  It was even hard to figure out how this all related to the crime story going on.  Though it did provide me with plenty of food for thought.  Nothing more so than when one of America’s biggest actors Brad Pitt uttered the lines that Thomas Jefferson was a self serving hypocrite and that people in the U.S. are not created equally and that the U.S. should not be thought of as a country, but rather as a corporation.  What this had to do with the card game robbery story is beyond me.

All this being said I’m in the middle about this film.  It wasn’t fantastic and it wasn’t horrible.  Some will love it while others will hate it.  Some will love the mass of dialogue while others will feel like it is just dragging down the film.  The acting is quite solid, but it gets subsumed under all the strangeness.  Everyone, however, will walk away thinking about and reacting to what they’ve just seen.

Special Features:

-Digital Copy

-Deleted Scenes

-The Making of Killing Them Softly

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