Film4: Tuesday 8 September, 11.05pm
The Bondurant brothers – burly Tom Hardy, barmy Jason Clarke, baby Shia LaBoeuf – aim to be the last men standing in a 1931 Virginia moonshine war. Lacking the resonance of the authentic Hatfields and McCoys feud, this ‘true’ story is as old as them thar hills – seemingly no more authentic than Boardwalk Empire, certainly less witty than Miller’s Crossing.
But possibly more violent than both of them put together. Written by Jack Bondurant’s grandson, it views criminal behaviour with rather less circumspection than the excellent Australian thriller, Animal Kingdom. Indeed, for all the tough talking and brutal acts of cruelty, its perspective is basically sentimental. (An impression underscored by LaBoeuf’s narration and the intrusive use of contemporary songs.) Coming from the gifted Australian director of The Proposition, this counts as a disappointment. The acting’s more compelling than the story.
Tom Hardy wears a battered wide-brimmed hat and a knuckle-duster and, smirking and sneering at the yahoos, Guy Pearce is amusingly obnoxious as the bow-tied law enforcer from Chicago. Jessica Chastain (given too little to do) left the Windy City to get away from people like him. Then fell in with the Bondurants. Prohibition relatives of the James Gang rather than kissing cousins of Robert Ford, this handsomely shot film would have us believe.