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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Lawless

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Shia LaBeouf and Mia Wasikowska star in a scene from the movie "Lawless."
"Lawless" (Weinstein) is a morally tangled drama pervaded by a misguided sense of nostalgia. Director John Hillcoat's period piece, adapted from Matt Bondurant's 2008 fact-based novel about the exploits of his paternal grandfather and two great-uncles, "The Wettest County in the World," looks back with more than a little fondness on their violent adventures as bootleggers in Prohibition-era Virginia.

Though the siblings are shown to resort to force only in retaliation, and though they eventually cease and desist, their gritty story remains unsuitable for all but the most mature and discerning viewers.

Shia LaBeouf plays Jack Bondurant, the youngest, and initially gentlest, of the trio. Awed by his brawny elders, World War I veteran Howard (Jason Clarke) and Spanish flu survivor Forrest (Tom Hardy), Jack yearns to be taken seriously and treated as their equal.

They, in turn, want to keep Jack safely insulated from their escalating conflict with Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce). Newly arrived from gangster-ridden Chicago, Rakes is anything but an ideal G-man. Corrupt and sadistic, he's out to lay down his own version of the law -- by any means necessary.

As Jack and his semi-disabled best friend Cricket (Dane DeHaan) try to finagle their way into the moonshining major leagues, Jack falls for Bertha (Mia Wasikowska), the sheltered daughter of a local preacher. Mumbling, inarticulate Forrest, meanwhile, fights his feelings for Maggie (Jessica Chastain), a woman with a past who has found shelter with the brothers.

As scripted by Nick Cave, "Lawless" tends to glamorize the mayhem the brothers wreak in their contest with Rakes; it does the same for a premarital bedroom encounter.

Granted that, left to their own devices, the Bondurants are fundamentally peace-loving and domestically inclined, and allowing for the vileness of the enemy they're fighting, moviegoers will still need prudence to guide them through the ethical thickets. They'll also need sufficient fortitude to resist giving way to the visceral reaction the proceedings seem calculated to elicit.

That's assuming, of course, that the elements listed below have not put them off in the first place.

The film contains strong, often gory violence, including torture, mutilation and beatings; semi-graphic premarital sexual activity; upper female nudity; numerous uses of profanity; many rough and crude terms; and some crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Athanasius: Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church. 
<p>Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism. </p><p>When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of St. Paul. </p><p>After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters. </p><p>Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism. </p><p>Among his ascetical writings, his<i> Life of St. Anthony</i> (January 17) achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.</p> American Catholic Blog Suffering is redemptive in part because it definitively reveals to man that he is not in fact God, and it thereby opens the human person to receive the divine.

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