First Hit: Violent and a well-acted film about bootlegging and the perceived invincibility of a family.
Forrest Bondurant (played by Tom Hardy) is a quiet and focused leader of the Bondurant family bootlegging operation.
His Howard (played by Jason Clarke) is a hard drinking, quick tempered, and the more obvious strong arm of Bondurant boys. Jack (played by Shia LaBeouf) is the “runt” of the boys. Jack is afraid of killing and violence, has wondrous ideas, and likes some of the trappings of the money they make through bootlegging.
The government sends in Chicago Special Officer Charlie Rakes (played by Guy Pearce) to work with local officers to clean up the bootlegging operations. The government is willing to make a deal with the bootleggers and all the local bootleggers do except the Bondurant’s.
This starts a war between the family and law enforcement officers. This is a mano-a-mano film mixed in with a bit of romance. The anxious romance of Jack with preacher’s daughter Bertha Minnix (played by Mia Wasikowska) was one of the more lighthearted aspects of the film.
This romance was juxtaposed by the smoldering slow build up of drifter Maggie Beauford (played by Jessica Chastain) who works for the Bondurant’s in their roadside café.
The violent aspects of the film are not necessarily easy to watch and that humans can do this to one another it is sad. Despite this violence I did like this dark film about a piece of Americana.
Hardy is beyond powerful and excellent in his role as the solid, immortal, Forrest Bondurant. Clarke is less evocative, yet his critical supportive role is well acted. LaBeouf is very good as the young man that shies away from the violence but tries to prove himself in other ways. Pearce is superb as the very twisted Rakes. Wasikowska is excellent as the preacher’s daughter who is hooked on the wilder Bondurant boy. Chastain is very good as the woman who’s seen it all and will do anything to find a home for herself. Dane DeHaan was outstanding as the rickets laden genius who assists the Bondurant’s in their business. Nick Cave wrote an excellent script from Matt Bondurant’s book about his family. John Hillcoat did a wonderful job of giving the audience a feel for this way of life.
Overall: If you can get by the violence, this is a very good film.