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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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