16 September 2012

Kicking Against The Pricks

Prohibition was introduced to America in 1919 and is probably one of the most famous examples of a large-scale fuck-up in recent history. I fucked up once a few years ago when I accidentally crafted myself a homemade bomb. My granddad had just died and left me a gold ring which someone suggested I should wash. Their reason was that he may have had it on whilst having a wank... all very plausible, I suppose.

Cleaning newly-deceased granddad spunk off from jewellery is not something I'm an expert at so I decided to get creative. I popped the ring into a flask, filled with boiling hot water and introduced a little washing liquid. I then put on the lid and shook it to mix the bubbles. The bubbles quickly expanded, the pressure increased and the flask exploded into tiny pieces like a watery fucking pipe-bomb. I then had to quickly clean everything up before my Mum came home- nobody wants to have to tell a parent that they, “made a bomb whilst trying to clean up dead-granddad's jizz” so I sprang into action. I couldn't vacuum flask shards because the carpet was too wet so I started to dry it with a towel. Annoyingly though this just made the washing liquid froth up like I was at a fucking foam party. Just when I thought I might get away with it, my hand began to burn. When the flask exploded I'd scolded myself and within a few minutes the skin from my knuckles had completely peeled away.

I'm not suggesting that my adventure into the world of home-made explosives was as stupid as prohibition but both are clearly moronic situations. I'm not sure why America decided to ban the selling of alcohol but I bet it's got something to do with outspoken religious people. As a result of this, the consumption of booze in certain major cities actually increased and organised crime became a much larger, powerful threat to the nation. Like with my bomb incident, somebody decided to fix a non-existent problem and ended up creating an even stupider situation. I had to go to the doctors in the end and tell him that I'd tried to make a cup of tea and instead poured boiling hot water over my hand. I'm sure it took a lot of professionalism for him to simply not diagnose me as an 'incurable stupid, fucking retard'.

There have been many films over the years that deal with the organised crime that thrived as a result of prohibition. One of the most famous is of course The Untouchables in which Sean Connery played an Irishman from Scotland and Kevin Costner played a man with all the charisma of a cardboard dildo. The most recent to be released however is Lawless which was directed by John Hillcoat and written by Nick Cave. Apparently the script was based on a book if anybody remembers those. They're basically what people were forced to use instead of televisions before the invention of any technology whatsoever.

Set during The Depression, this film tells the true story of three brothers who earned a living through bootlegging. They were basically the weed dealers of the 1930's by selling a relatively harmless product to a public of responsible adults. With Shia LaBeouf as the youngest brother in their gang, the story is mostly framed by his desire to be taken seriously and given proper respect. Ironically that is presumably also why the actor is now appearing in films like this and featuring naked in pretentiously awful music videos. Although, if I'd been in Transformers: Dark of the Moon I'd probably walk around with my cock out crying to Sigur Rรณs too.

The older of the three brothers is played by Tom Hardy who mumbles his way through scenes like a big, pink Hulk. His role here is a matriarchal one, as like a giant Mummy Bear he watches protectively over his family. In fact, most of the film's highlights are when he snaps into action and starts stabbing people in the head and cutting off their bollocks. His character also wanders the movie refusing to die despite receiving potentially lethal injuries on several occasions. It's said in the film that he is an immortal and like Superman or Keith Richards, it certainly looks that way.

The third brother played by Jason Clarke is unfortunately not well known enough for his own story and so simply pops up as a sidekick now and again. If the film has any problem, it's in the characters that it accidentally neglects which, as well as Jason Not-so-Famous, also includes Gary Oldman and Mia Wonderland.

The main antagonist of Lawless is easily Guy Pearce who minces into the story like a pantomime psychopath. His mission to enforce prohibition requires him to stop the bootlegging business of the three brothers which he attempts to do with extreme force. It's hard not to be instantly drawn to a villain that seems to be part Harry Callahan and part Danny LaRue, but Pearce's character represents another of the film's issues. For the most part, the movie is a fairly grounded gangster/western with several gritty performances and a clear eye for period detail. By appearing as a demented member of the Village People, Pearce's performance appears slightly jarring. Having said that he does hint towards what he could have done as The Joker if cast in one of Nolan's Dark Knight movies. As Jeffrey Dahmer and Michael Barrymore have proved, there is nothing more creepy than a sinister gay.

If there was a reason to be excited by Lawless however, it was in the repairing of Nick Cave and John Hillcoat. The two previously collaborated on the Aussie western masterpiece, The Proposition and the end of the world joyfest The Road, for which Cave supplied the soundtrack. Being a generally hate filled person, I am of course a huge fan of Cave's music which includes such romanticised lyrics as, “They found Mary Bellows cuffed to the bed,
with a rag in her mouth and a bullet in her head” andI'm a bad motherfucker, don't you know. And I'll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boys ass hole”.

The music to Lawless is predictably brilliant. Despite being covers of songs from other artists, it's interesting to hear how a couple of them could easily fit onto the Pat Garret and Billy the Kid soundtrack. Since The Proposition, it seems to me that John Hillcoat could be our generation's Sam Peckinpah and now with Lawless, this still seems true. Both men make films about struggling masculinity in a nihilistic world and infuse them with a smothering sense of melancholia. They also deal with characters who have to bend their own morality to survive amongst the violence and brutality. I guess the difference would be that Hillcoat has the taste to allow his rape scenes to take place off screen. It's not that I'm against rape being graphically depicted and I do think Straw Dogs is a masterpiece. But I watched that scene with a couple of mates once and one of them squirmed about in an uncomfortable way that suggested he probably had an erection. Firstly, any film that puts my friends into heat makes me feel awkward, secondly a graphic rape scene shouldn't really result in a sweating chubby.

Unfortunately Lawless doesn't quite reach the brilliant heights of The Road or its brother film The Proposition, however that's not to say it isn't still great. LaBeouf's acting has been turned up a notch and even if he can't quite match the giants of Hardy and Oldman he clearly has a good old try. Apparently he's recently decided to become a method actor which means he's grown a beard and started sporting crappy looking knitwear whilst out in public. For Lawless, being a method actor led him to go out of his way to track down and drink some actual moonshine. I say that as though it's meant to be impressive but lets face it, it's really not. Plenty of people have to get pissed to go to work. I once genuinely found a teacher locked in a classroom, face down on a desk and with a bottle next to her drooling face. The only difference between her and LaBeouf is that he's on a better wage and she was responsible for a class of school children. In hindsight she could probably grow a better beard than him too.

Regarding LaBeouf's character I did actually notice something strange. There were several occasions when he'd had the shit kicked out of him and was left bleeding and broken. Presumably this was either for his character's outlaw ways or simply the actors association with Michael Bay's mechanical movie bollocks. After leaving the scene a blooded mess he would arrive at the next one without a fucking mark on him. Now either this is a rather obvious continuity error or his character has healing abilities as powerful as Jesus H. Christ. If it's the latter, then Lawless is officially the best Wolverine prequel I've ever seen.

Superpowers aside, the film is unfortunately a little cliched, not really adding anything new to the genre. It's still a good ride while it lasts however, and so certainly worth a watch. Highlights include a character getting his throat slit and Gary Oldman twatting somebody in the face with a shovel. With the world currently in an economic shit heap, you could look at the political relevance of a film that depicts depression-era ingenuity and corruption within the system. But really who can be fucked doing that with a movie that features a man getting boiling tar poured over his back. Despite everything mentioned, I thoroughly enjoyed Lawless and that's despite watching it in a cinema surrounded by cunts who wouldn't shut the fuck up. In fact I think being massively pissed off with the people there really helped me to enjoy the on-screen violence. People think that something like The Road is depressing because it shows the end of humanity, however after hearing people talk through Lawless I honestly can't think of anything more satisfying.

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