Blu-ray Review: ‘Lawless’

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Blu-ray Review: ‘Lawless’
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Movie poster for "Lawless"

John Hillcoat's "Lawless" arrives on a three-disc Blu-ray set consisting of one Blu-ray disc and two DVDs. The package houses the film's HD, SD, and digital copies, as well as a couple of supplements. This 2012 period drama works as a western and gangster hybrid inspired by the real-life adventures of Matt Bondurant's grandfather, as featured in his biographical novel "The Wettest County in the World." It stars Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska.

This moonshine-themed organized crime film is set in a Depression-era Virginia town where a bootlegging trio of brothers gets threatened by the authorities who want to get a big slice from their lucrative pie. As they continue to make profit off the height of 20th-century America's Age of Prohibition, crime and savagery follow every jar of handmade liquor they produce. This leads them to a number of uncompromisingly violent turning points in their lives.

Visuals

This authentically gritty offering showcases many picturesque mountain vistas and rural towns of the idyllic Virginia countryside. With a keen eye for framing, Hillcoat looks quite adept at tackling his dark material. He succeeds in meticulously recreating the era with suitably evocative colors, camerawork, and editing. He also expertly choreographs the story's plot-driven violence with ease.

Despite shooting digitally, this motion picture's proficient transfer retains a very film-like texture. Its strong contrast, crisp details, and adequate sharpness are quite impressive. There are no serious crushing or blooming issues to note in the blacks or the whites. Even with a handful of slightly soft shots, a touch of banding, and a few shimmering, the images still don't succumb to detrimental compression artifacts and other serious visual concerns.

Audio

The realistically immersive five-channel lossless soundtrack delivers a very expansive and robust presentation. The musical score stays predominantly upfront with its fine mix of instrumental and folk music. There are no crucial audio problems to note anywhere in the track.

The hearty, well-crafted mix's fidelity, directionality, and dynamic range sonically carry the film. The varying sound elements don't overpower each other. Speaking lines are consistently clear and balanced. Ambient effects are handled with generous spacing and accuracy.

Supplements

The package contains an audio commentary track by director John Hillcoat and Author Matt Bondurant, a collection of deleted scenes, the Willie Nelson music video of "Midnight Run," and the three diverse featurettes "Lawless: The True Story of the Wettest County in the World," "Franklin County, Virginia: Then & Now," and "The Story of the Bondurant Family." All videos are presented in HD format. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.

Final Thoughts

"Lawless" retains all the violence and pain of its subject matter without losing its humanity. The screenplay meanders among diverse themes, yet everything flows well and goes down easy from start to end. Grounded through its entirety, it effectively blends powerful drama and violence with subtle romance and humor.

Although it feels a tad too long, this must-see piece about family, crime, and business is loaded with knockout performances that really convey the story's time and violence with striking precision. Its convincing character roster fits into the narrative with uncanny realism. This readily avoids bringing the story into the dragging route. With an impeccable technical presentation that aptly renders a polished look at its volatile setting, this Blu-ray transfer is a must-buy, especially for fans of first-rate indie cinema.

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