The “cowboy” or western genre has never ranked too high on my scale of top themes; I recognize and respect the John Wayne/Gary Cooper cult; loved the “Ballad of High Noon” more than the plot. Although not a Western in the true sense (minimal horses), Australian director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave (not to be confused with the artist) serve an intoxicating tale of the bootlegging Bondurant brothers, distilling their inebriating concoction in the backwater counties of rural Virginia in the 1930’s. The story is liberally based on Matt Bondurant’s “The Wettest County in the World”, revolving around the illegal exploits of his great-uncles. Enough guns and guts to satiate the most avid blood-thirsty viewer.
Tom Hardy as “Forrest Bondurant” wordlessly pulsates power, intransigent control over his business, brothers, law enforcement; the Bondurant stringent code is recognized by the community and religiously adhered to. Jason Clarke ( now defunct “Chicago Code”) is the perpetually- sloshed firebrand “Howard Bondurant”; the enforcer, steely, maims mercilessly anyone threatening his family’s moonshine monopoly; be breathes, bleeds booze and brawn.
Shia LaBeouf, the sensitive youngling, “Jack Bondurant” is the focal point of the scenario; protected, squeamish, naive, lacking the true grit of his brothers; the story evolves around his “coming of age” and falling in love with an angelic daughter (Mia Wasikowska) of a staunch, pedantic preacher; the courting scenes add a touch of charm and a momentary hiatus from the pounding, pulverizing violence.
The depth and richness of the film harbors with Guy Pearce’s depiction of the slithery Government agent from Chicago; he is “lawless”, evil, as slippery as the pomade he slathers in his hair; he is revoltingly mesmerizing and reason enough to see the film.
Gore galore, tempered with the shimmering, sensual performance of Jessica Chastain as the damaged damsel and love interest of Forrest Bondurant; a successful symmetry which gifts the film………….