| This violent and gritty family outlaw drama reteams Australian director John Hillcoat and musician-turned screenwriter Nick Cave whose previous collaboration was “The Proposition.
During Prohibition, Franklin County, Virginia, located in the Appalachian Mountains, earned a national reputation for its moonshine. The Bondurant brothers became legends in the area for their successful bootlegging operation.
Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy from “Inception”, “Warrior” and most recently the villain Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises”) is the oldest brother. He is a tough guy considered to be indestructible. He runs the illegal operation and is unwilling to grease the palms of the authorities and the local police officers.
Howard (Jason Clarke from “Public Enemies”) is the middle brother. He is a hefty physical specimen, who takes a hankering to the family’s brew of white lightning. He is usually reliable and always at Forrest’s beck and call.
The youngest Bondurant is Jack (Shia LaBeouf from “Transformers” and “Eagle Eye”), who serves as the narrator. This true story is based on the novel “The Wettest County in the World” by Jack’s real-life grandson, Matt Bondurant.
The movie centers on Jack as he comes of age in1931. A flashback to his youth shows him unable to pull the trigger on a pig about to be slaughtered. He gains the reputation of being soft. His brothers relegate him to being the driver and lookout during the deliveries.
Jack, in an effort to prove himself, starts making side deals with Chicago gangster Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman from “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, Sirius Black in the “Harry Potter” franchise and most recently Commissioner Gordon in “The Dark Knight Rises”).
Jack also finds time to court Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowski from “Albert Nobbs”, “Jane Eyre” and “Alice in Wonderland”), the daughter of a strict Amish preacher. He tries to impress her with his new convertible and fancy duds.
The arrival of two new characters to town heightens the action. The beautiful redhead Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain from “The Help” and “The Debt”) is looking for someplace quiet. She becomes Forrest’s love interest after he hires her as a waitress/bartender.
Ruthless Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce from “Prometheus”, “The King’s Speech” and “Animal Kingdom”) is a sadistic psychopath. He is a dapper dresser. His attire always includes a bowtie and gloves. He parts his hair down the middle. His unorthodox interrogation methods involve brutal violence first and questions later. He represents evil incarnate.
La Beouf gives his finest performance to date on screen. He shows a sensitive side to his character and develops true grit when faced with the harsh realities of illegal activities.
Pearce is the perfect foil as the villain. You will relish in hating this vile and despicable individual.
Hardy continues his rise to stardom. He grunts and mumbles his lines, but you can’t help but pull for this headstrong individual. He resorts to brass knuckles when involved in a fistfight.
Chastain makes the most of her part. Her come-hither attractiveness and acting chops make her a mesmerizing presence on screen.
The movie’s other strengths include the period costumes, vintage automobiles, the coiffed hairstyles and a terrific soundtrack.
This gripping crime drama holds your interest during its nearly two-hour running time. You need to be prepared for horrific scenes of bloody violence, profane language, nudity and sexuality.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"