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March 4, 2013
Lawless Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
27/9/201220/2/2013Village RoadshowJohn Hillcoat
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MA15+Shia LaBeouf

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Guy Pierce puts in another stellar performace.

Lawless is a film which I've had my eye on for quite some time since I saw the first trailer around a year ago now, but for one reason or another I never managed to catch the film at cinemas. With a stellar cast, and director John Hillcoat (The Road and The Proposition) handling the film it was one I was quite eager to check out on Blu-Ray, and that's exactly what we did this week.

Set in Franklin County, Virginia, this film takes place during Prohibition-era where the three Bondurant Brothers have their loyalty put to the test when a new Deputy, Charlie Rakes, comes to clean up the county.

What makes Lawless all the more impressive is that this film is based on real events depicted in the book "The Wettest County in the World" which was written by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of one of the three brothers featured in the film. Admittedly Matt based his book on historical photographs and newspaper reports with his grandfather never talking about his family’s history with his family prior to passing away. So while many of the films smaller moments and dialogue are made up this film has a grounding in reality which makes it all the more riveting.

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Lawless tells the story of the Bondurant boys.
At the top of this review we mentioned the stellar cast and it's one which includes Shia LaBeouf (Transformers), Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises), Jason Clarke (Public Enemies), Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential), Jessica Chastain (The Help) and Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland) there is little doubt about the talent in this film. Actually looking at that list it's somewhat amusing to realise that half the principal cast in the film area Australians! If we have to level some criticism at the film it's that Gary Oldman's role in the film is significantly lighter then we would have hoped - he's a fine actor that yet again lights up the screen in his limited time. Also, some of the actors talk with a rather deep voice, that seems to get a little muffled at times and while it may add to the "realism" it becomes a little annoying.

With a runtime of 116 minutes this certainly doesn't seem like a slow film with a brisk pace and constant events keeping the film moving along nicely. With a screenplay from Nick Cave (yes, the singer from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds) based on Matt Bondurant's novel, all the characters are given some great moments throughout the film and each actor brings their character to life. Everything else in the film from set design, to costumes and even the blood and gore is top notch.

We must point out too that the Australian Blu-Ray version of Lawless is the uncensored version of the film. While there isn't a massive amount of new scenes, this version does contain some more graphic violence and gore. While it's not relentless what is here is impactful and warrants the MA15+ rating.

Lawless isn't the best film about bootlegging, but it's a fine effort and with such a stellar cast, and story that seems to good to be based on real events (but is), this is definitely worth checking out.

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Shia LeBeouf is fantastic as Jack Bondurant.
Lawless is presented on Blu-Ray in the films original 2.40:1 aspect ratio and has been encoded with the AVC MPEG-4 codec. According to our PS3 the video bitrate varied wildly from 15Mbps right up to 39Mbps according to the scene however the resultant image always impresses.

Many scenes in this film either take place at night time or in poorly lit indoor areas, but this Blu-Ray transfer handles the fine detail, and especially in darker areas, with little issue. We did notice occasional some very minor artifacts such as colour banding, and occasional contrast issues, but they are so minor they are hardly worth mentioning.

Also impressive is the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack which is fills your room with a lively, dynamic experience. At times some dialogue is a little hard to understand, but that is in part due to the accents, but also the sound mix. Still, that's very infrequent and overall the music, effects and dialogue all mix to make this a great sounding film.

The only other audio option on the Lawless Blu-Ray is an Audio Descriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired which is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps. Again, it's disappointing that surround sound is dropped out of these soundtracks but the narration is always clear and descriptions accurately describe the on-screen action. A sole Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired track is included and is accurate to the dialogue.

The Blu-Ray for Lawless includes several extras the best of which is the audio commentary, but there are a few other interesting bits as well. Anyway here's what to expect...

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Lawless looks fantastic on Blu-Ray.
Audio Commentary: This audio commentary features Director John Hillcoat and Author Matt Bondurant who provide a non-stop, in depth commentary which helps flesh out the story, but also, and most importantly, allows Matt to discuss more about the real-events and his research into his family.

Lawless: The True Story Of The Wettest County In The World (21:33/HD): Here the author of the book, Matt Bondurant, who is the grandson of one of brothers in the film - Jack Bondurant, as well as Director John Hillcoat, Screenwriter Nick Cave (yes, the singer) and other filmmakers and actors detail the real events in Franklin County in the 1930s around which this film is based. It includes archival footage from the era and details many aspects of the film, from the history of the family, to the violence, to the love story, and writing the film. Unfortunately it's a little more about detailing the plot and characters in the film rather than a historical documentary, however it's well produced and still worth checking out.

Franklin County, VA: Then and Now (6:12/HD): This short featurette looks the Franklin County in Virginia, the area where the Moonshine was made, and in which this film is set and why people turned to making Moonshine for a living despite the illegality and risk involved.

The Story Of The Bondurant Family (12:44/HD): Matt Bondurant discusses his process of building this story from newspaper articles and includes several images from his grandparents. This is probably the most interesting featurette on the disc.

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Australia's Mia Wasikowska as Bertha Minnix.
Deleted Scenes (19:39/HD): There are several deleted scenes on this disc, but there really is little of substance that should have been added to the film except the 4th scene with Howard Telling Forrest about the moonshine being stolen - that scene may have added to the film. Scenes include "6 Legged Cow" (1:55), "Forrest and Tizwel" (1:15), "Campfire (Alternate)" (1:30), "Howard Tells Forrest That Jack Stole The Moonshine" (0:50), "Rakes and Feather" (0:51), "Jr With Brass Knuckles" (2:06)

"Midnight Run" Willie Nelson Music Video (1:40/HD): It's a Willie Nelson video clip - but contains plenty of spoiler scenes from the film so be mindful not to watch it before the film.

Lawless is quite an entertaining film made all the more interesting with the knowledge that it is loosly based on real-life events. The Blu-Ray transfer is superb while there is a decent smattering of extras as well. Certainly worth a look.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Village Roadshow. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.