A movie with a stellar cast – Tom Hardy, Guy Pierce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain and, er, some others. The great Nick Cave on screenplay and based on the very story told by the subject’s own grandson! How could it possibly go wrong, whatever it’s about?
Ostentatious prohibition-era true-life drama starring Shia LaBoeuf (Transformers) and Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) as two of the trio of bootlegging Bondurante brothers holding their own against corrupt and insanely violent authorities headed by Guy Pierce (The Count of Monte Christo) as the effeminate sociopath Rakes.
I will try my best to be objective about this movie… hang on, no I won’t. Where to begin… How about the immense disappointment I experienced to discover the sub-par performances throughout. With the exception of Gary Oldman’s Floyd Banner, they were all, in my humble opinion, miscast.
Shia LaBoeuf is great as a quirky teen in some of his other efforts, but I found, as Jack Bondurant, his obviously fake accent and over-acting grating. Tom Hardy as Forrest did his best with some cheesy scripting, but again the accent just didn’t fit. It irritates that they are plenty of actual talented American actors who could have done a native Virginia drawl, but they go for Hardy. He’s a great actor, but we are all invested in the fact we know he’s British. Guy Pierce is even more insufferable as the dandy deputy Rakes. Again, I love Guy Pierce, but I just couldn’t connect with his character, Pierce is just not the guy for this particular job.
Both the female leads, Jessica Chastain (Maggie Beaufort) and Mia Wasikowska (Bertha Minnix) did their bit diligently, but the romances that were the sole reason for their existence in this movie were ultra-cheesy. There were other things that bugged me about the role of women in this film…
How about some of the film’s themes? The whole movie has a very blatant and very American message. It has both a strong libertarian concept and a 2nd Amendment theme running through the entire film. Outlaws use insane violence to protect themselves from the insane violence of a tyrannical regime, and ultimately turn out to have been right all along. And, naturally, the frenchy Rakes has to be the evil one, ‘cos fairies can’t beat the real men, right? Hmmm… Women are reduced to the role of love interests, and I felt that Chastain’s past as a reformed prositute was designed to make it seem like that would make it easier to deal with being gang-raped, which is a bit wrong, no?
Quite apart from the sub-plots, the over-arching narrative and setting just felt a bit tired. I’m sure it meant a whole lot more to patriotic Americans, but to me in the UK it just felt old.
Now I want to talk about the direction. Filmed in a very traditional blockbuster style, it felt over-produced, unreal – everything too shiny, even the mud looked drawn on. The movie tries to carve itself a niche with a smorgasbord of Over-The-Top violence. OTT to the point that it becomes unbelievable, even though you know it’s a true story. That takes some effort. You can tell that it is screaming to be considered an epic, a classic even. It gets nowhere even close to either.
So that’s casting, screenplay, acting, theme, direction all down. I can’t tell you how crushingly disappointed I was at seeing my favorite actors eviscerated by terrible direction and cheesy scripting. I only wrote this review so that I didn’t feel like I had completely wasted my night…
1.5/5 – Total Pants