Lawless (2012)

After the subdued and melancholy The Road, director John Hillcoat comes out guns blazing with Lawless – a period crime saga that’s the movie equivalent of a mainstream pop hit, and one containing about as much subtlety.

Talking of music, Lawless is busting with it. The soundtrack thrums with modern ditties rendered period by folksy violins (listen out for a bluegrass cover of Lou Reed’s ‘White Light/White Heat’). That’s no surprise considering Nick Cave provided the score, and  it’s a conceit that mostly works, boosting Hillcoat’s unfussy visuals with ageless vibrancy.

“These were dangerous times,” twangs Shia LaBeouf as the film opens, and he ain’t kidding. Set during Depression-era Virginia, within minutes Lawless has surrendered a pig getting shot in the head, a party in which the guest of honour is a corpse, and streets splotched with bloody red puddles.

LaBeouf (keeping his clothes on, despite recent forays into music video nudity) plays Jack Bondurant, youngest of the Bondurant brothers and feeling the pressure to live up to the family’s reputation as bootlegging bad-asses. That’s made all the harder considering his big bro is Forrest (Tom Hardy), a beast of a man who’s rumoured to be indestructible.

Though the rest of the cast includes stellar up-and-comers Jessica Chastain and Dane DeHaan (Chronicle), Lawless is LaBeouf’s film. That’s both a good and a bad thing because while LaBeouf is excellent, easily banishing any nagging memories of robots in disguise, the likes of Hardy (who manages to be menacing while wearing a cardigan) and Chastain rarely have much to do.

Equally sidelined is Gary Oldman’s gun-wielding gangster Floyd Banner, here little more than a cameo despite the mother of all grand-standing entrances. More time is afforded to Guy Pearce’s wane, mannered Special Agent Charlie Rakes, who’s cracking down on the illegal trafficking of goods in Virginia. Pearce, who was fantastic in Hillcoat’s The Proposition, is riveting as a panto baddie, ushering in the most upsetting scenes of torture since Game of Thrones’ rat burrowing incident.

Considering the pedigree of talent involved, though, not to mention the richness of the world Hillcoat creates, you can’t help but want more. At under two hours long, there’s plenty of room for a fuller exploration of the story’s fascinating bit-players. So while Hillcoat impresses, squeezing Cave’s script (adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County In The World) for all its juice, his film feels unfinished. Still, if you want a sensitive, restrained period drama, watch The Assassination Of Jesse James. If it’s rootin-tootin’ guns-blazing entertainment you’re after, you could do a lot worse than Lawless. 3/5

Via Grolsch Film Works

50 Greatest Improvised Movie Scenes

50. Inception (2010)

The Improvisation: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” advises Eames (Tom Hardy), as he shoulders Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) out of the way and whips out a super-huge firearm.

What Was In The Script: The “darling” part was Hardy’s own affectionate, plummy addition. “The ‘darling’ part was accidental,” the actor admits. “I came out with ‘darling’ and we kept it in because it was funny.”

This Means War (2012)

Don’t be fooled by the title – This Means War is not an action movie. With its A-list love triangle and dreamy meet-cutes, it’s romcom to its back teeth, even if it does contain the odd expensive-looking explosion.

The premise is simple. Undercover agents Foster (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are ‘grounded’ after a disastrous mission gets the attention of the national media. Desk-bound and bored, they take it upon themselves to fight (quite literally) over bubblegum bombshell Reese Witherspoon, whose job is to unwittingly choose a victor. Meanwhile, a terrorist B-plot – which is barely even worth mentioning for all the weight it carries – plays second fiddle to the romantic shenanigans, and merely functions to provide intermittent pyrotechnics.

The real fireworks, though, are to be found between Hardy and Pine, who share a sizzling chemistry that borders on the homoerotic. No surprise that This Means War was co-scripted by Simon Kinberg, who also penned Robert Downey Jr.’s first Sherlock Holmes outing. The same bubbly bromantic banter is evident in War, and is the film’s main strong point.

What is surprising is how flat the action scenes are. Director McG previously helmed both Charlie’s Angels films and Terminator Salvation, which means he knows a thing or two about action flicks. Still, the handful of combat sequences are War’s limpest – in particular the opening high-rise segment, which feels like a deleted scene from a really bad Bond film.

Happily, McG keeps the fisticuffs to a minimum, allowing the spotlight to shine firmly on Pine and Hardy. With these two firing off razor-sharp one-liners, This Means War takes a sitcom premise – what if Bond and Bourne were dating the same girl? – that can barely muster more than one note, and turns it into a buffet of blokey one-upmanship. 2/5

Deserter (2002)

Ten years before he bulked up for The Dark Knight Rises, skinny Tom Hardy’s enigmatic French legionnaire Dupont here easily steals the limelight from Paul Fox’s troubled Englishman, as they’re toughened up by callous sergeants and sent out to protect Algiers from suicide bombers.

It’s punchy at 90 minutes, and features enough blazing gunplay to stop it becoming too Sunday-afternoon special. They missed a trick with Hardy, though – he’s only let off the leash in the final stretch. Still, there’s always Bane… 3/5

Via Total Film

Blade Runner 2.0

As director Ridley Scott preps another Replicant run-around, Buzz tells him what we want – and what we don’t – in Blade Runner 2…

Ridley Scott is back! Almost 30 years after the Brit director last birthed a sci-fi, he’s returning to the scene of his last hi-tech epic by taking the reins on a new Blade Runner movie. With the rights snapped up by Alcon Entertainment, details on the potential prequel/sequel are harder to find than iron-fisted Replicants. Harrison Ford’s two cents? “If they go into it with ambition and bring something new to it, maybe it’ll be successful.” According to Alcon producer Andrew Kosgrove, though, Ford won’t be playing Deckard again. “This is a total reinvention,” he says, “that means doing everything fresh.” Leave it to Buzz to rustle up some helpful suggestions…

DO get Vangelis back to score
The Greek composter’s nervy, electrifying score for the first Blade Runner infused Scott’s fractured future Los Angeles with twitchy, mesmeric sounds. The last big budget film Vangelis composed for was Oliver Stone’s floptastic 2004 Alexander – like Scott, it’s clearly time for this guy to get back into sci-fi.

DON’T bring back Deckard
We love Harrison Ford. You love Harrison Ford. But do we really need to play the Crystal Skull card? Resurrecting beloved characters is dicey enough, and we like Deckard just the way he is. Besides, his story’s done – we don’t need an answer to the ‘Is Deckard a Replicant?’ conundrum. We just don’t.

DO hire Tom Hardy
Scott enlisted Michael Fassbender for Prometheus, so he obviously has an eye for brilliant burgeoning talent. Next on his list should be Tom Hardy. You want a grizzled anti-hero with soulful eyes and brawn to match the brains? Hardy’s your man. Get on the blower quick, though – he’s a busy guy.

DON’T make an action blockbuster
Blade Runner isn’t a blockbuster. In today’s money, it cost a modest $62m to make, putting it way behind Avatar ($237m) and even next year’s Total Recall reboot ($200m). Any new Blade Runner movie should understand what made the original tick – taut storytelling and memorable characters. And the odd fistfight.

DO keep the same aesthetic
Sadly, Blade Runner cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth died in 1996 – but his elegant work on Runner should remain an important touchstone for Scott’s new film. We’re talking shabby chic aesthetics and mega-moody lighting. Legendary concept artist Syd Mead, who was pivotal in designing Runner’s city and vehicles, is also a must.

DON’T make a prequel
Prequels are tricky to tame. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes did good earlier this year, and Scott’s own Prometheus looks mind-blowing – but for every X-Men: First Class there’s a Phantom Menace. Let’s push the story forward – anybody else interested in seeing what a Nexus 7 could do?

DO recruit Damon Lindelof
If JJ Abrams vouches for him, we’re all for it. Lost writer Lindelof helped Scott transform an iffy Alien 5 script into Prometheus, and on the evidence we’ve seen of that film, he’s done a bang up job. He also managed to concoct a fan-pleasing reinvention of Star Trek. Get him a pen pronto.

DON’T over-egg the CGI
We’ve already talked aesthetics, but let’s hammer this one home. Runner doesn’t need big impressive CGI landscapes or flashy CG set-pieces. Scott did perfectly well with his practical effects in ’82, and if he wants to craft a decent follow-up, he needs to use CGI wisely. Ridders, we trust you.

Bane of my life

Those concerned they couldn’t get anymore excited about the currently shooting Dark Knight Rises can all breathe a sigh of relief – yes, you can be more excited, and you should be, and that picture up there is why.

Why? It’s the first official still from the threequel, showing off a considerably/impressively beefy Tom Hardy as big brute Bane. It’s a massive difference from the Bane we last saw on the big screen in Batman & Robin – but considering Rises is being helmed by Chris Nolan and not Joel Schumacher, that’s no big surprise. Released via the Bat sequel’s official website, this is obviously a bid to stop unsanctioned leaks from the movie set, as well as stoking the embers of our love for Nolan’s franchise. Quess what – it worked!

And just for comparison’s sake, here’s Jeep Swenson as Bane in Batman & Robin. Spot the difference?