Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat got his start in the industry by helming music videos for the likes of Elvis Costello, Bush and Depeche Mode, so it was a little surprising when he instantly established himself as someone with a talent for gritty, bruising noir thrillers.
His feature directorial debut The Proposition was a brutal, unflinching and sun-baked Western starring Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone, which he followed up with the bleak post-apocalyptic adaptation of The Road. Hillcoat’s first major studio film, meanwhile, saw him tackling novel The Wettest Country in the World for The Weinstein Company, which made it to the big screen as star-studded crime drama Lawless.
Three brothers run a company in the backwoods of 1930s Virginia that’s used as a front for their bootlegging business, with each sibling playing a pivotal role in the operation. Tom Hardy is the brains, Jason Clarke is the muscle and Shia LaBeouf is both the lookout and the wildcard. When Guy Pearce’s lawman arrives on the scene from Chicago to shut down the Bondurant family’s illicit racket, a violent turf war erupts.
As well as the aforementioned quartet, Lawless also features Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan and Gary Oldman, which is one hell of an impressive ensemble. However, despite scoring generally solid reviews from critics, the film never managed to live up to its early buzz as a potential awards season contender, and earned less than $55 million at the box office on a $26 million budget.
That being said, almost a decade after it was first released, Lawless has found a new lease of life on Netflix, where it’s currently one of the ten most-watched movies on the streaming service among subscribers in the United States.