There’s a theory I have. It has been kicking around for some time. Well, since I first saw Tom Hardy as gay crook Handsome Bob in RocknRolla. The theory is this: every film is made exactly 73 per cent better by having a bit of Tom Hardy in it. His latest project confirms this. The Brit barely says more than “mmm-hmm” or “hmm-mmm” the entire movie (his pivotal monologue is two sentences long, really). Yet Hardy manages to own Lawless. That’s quite a feat when you consider the performances of an eyebrow-less Guy Pearce and the always-enchanting Jessica Chastain. And yet, Lawless IS Tom Hardy’s. Based on the book The Wettest County In The World written by Matt Bondurant (the grandson of Shia LeBeouf’s character Jack Bondurant), Lawless is set in prohibition era Virginia and follows the exploits of the notorious Bondurant brothers. Considered by the local townsfolk to be ‘immortal’, the Bondurants consist of the tough Howard (Jason Clarke), the tougher Forrest (Tom Hardy) and the opposite of tough Jack (LaBeouf). The bros cut a crust making and exporting moonshine, a cosy operation that’s running well until a new, neurotic and psychotic deputy (Pearce) rolls into town. Their quiet slice of redneck comfort is shattered as the corrupt officer starts a blood feud with the family.

Lawless sees Australian-born filmmaker John Hillcoat and Nick Cave re-team as a director-screenwriter duo to great effect. They bring the grit, violence and masculinity of The Proposition back once more, but this time with the added bonus of an occasional dapper gangster. Speaking of violence . . . Lawless doesn’t skimp on the blood. There’s gore galore with spurting arteries, jarred genitals and a seriously awesome use of prosthetic stitches. Violence isn’t just used as a superficial tool though: it’s used to illustrate a point. It’s almost a demonstration of the brothers affection and sentimentality towards each other. As Hardy’s Forrest says (in one of his few lines): "It's not violence that sets men apart, it's the distance they're willing to go.”

Lawless isn’t a particularly smart movie, but intricate plotting is of little importance when the characters are so engaging. It’s fun, it’s funny and it moves. LaBeouf is whatever and the underrated Clarke is strong, so too the superb supporting cast in Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan, Gary Oldman and Noah Taylor (who’s competing with Steve Buscemi for the creepiest face in showbiz). Truly though, Lawless is the Tom Hardy show. Ironic, considering this was supposed to LaBeouf’s moment to cement himself as a serious douche actor. He had little hope going against the unmovable force that is Hardy: serious, simmering and stunningly affective. After the already over-imitated Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy has to be in the running for the best vocal performer of the year with Lawless. Each word Forrest speaks sounds like gravel molesting your ears.

Tackling some heavy source material with surprising humour and flair, Lawless is yet another example of why we need to continue worshipping at the altar of Tom Hardy.

[rating=4]

Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz

Directed by: John Hillcoat

Written by: Nick Cave (Screenplay)

Starring: Tom Hardy, Shia Labouf, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke

Sydney, Australia. Getting her start as a police reporter, her writing on pop culture has appeared in publications such as the New York Post, Guardian, Penthouse, The Daily Mail, Empire Magazine, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, i09, Junkee and many more. Previously seen as a presenter on SBS Viceland’s nightly news program The Feed and as the host of Cleverfan on ABC, she has been a journalist for over 15 years.

Her best-selling debut novel Who's Afraid? was published in 2016, followed by its sequel Who’s Afraid Too? in 2017, which was nominated for Best Horror Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2018. Who’s Afraid? is being developed for television by the Emmy and BAFTA award-winning Hoodlum Entertainment. Her Young Adult debut, It Came From The Deep, was released globally on October 31, Halloween, 2017 and is a twist on The Little Mermaid meets Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Her fourth book, The Witch Who Courted Death, was released on Halloween, 2018 and nominated for Best Fantasy Novel at the Aurealis Awards in 2019. Her fifth novel set within the share supernatural universe is due for release in October, 2019.