My sister is on a Tom Hardy kick, so while I have enjoyed his performances in several movies, the two I saw on DVD were less to my taste. This Means War is a bit of sleek fluff that asks you to believe that Reese Witherspoon—as a product tester—has trouble finding men to date. As advertised, I thought this movie was about three spies—Hardy, Witherspoon, and new-Kirk Chris Pine. In fact, only the men are the spies, and start using their power and privilege to try to win Witherspoon, eroding their friendship in the process. It’s a mildly entertaining film, shot like a music video (the lights! My eyes!) with the obnoxious presence of Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s raunchy best friend. Hardy is certainly the best part, as the sweeter of the two men (the antithesis to Gerard Butler’s character in The Ugly Truth), though I was extremely annoyed to find the filmmakers consider being British “a flaw.” Methinks they doth protest too much?
Lawless is in quite a different genre. Based on the book The Wettest County in the World, it seems to be riding a crest of films set in the US during the first four decades of the 20th century. Its extreme violence, described by one IMDB.com reviewer as “horror movie territory,” could well be “the way things were” in Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition. But personally, as it closed, I thought of many ways the story could have been told in an alternative fashion that would have made it a lot more complex, instead of a black-and-white tale of good versus evil, with basically no shading at all.
Certainly the three Bondurant brothers, convinced in their invincibility, are the stars of their local community, as moonshine makers. When a sadistic, effete Chicago police nabob moves to the area, the brothers see no reason to give into his demands. What follows is a bloodbath with little let-up for would-be romances between two of the brothers and two very different women. Gary Oldman’s cameo as a mobster leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. It’s not Hardy’s best performance, either, as he mumbles and mutters his way through almost unintelligible dialogue.
There are plenty of interesting elements to Lawless that could have resulted in a more verisimilitudinous depiction of the time and place—a little more O, Brother Where Art Thou? could have given a bit more context.