Lawless (18): Based on a true story, Lawless knocks back a drink with three brothers who become kings of their close-knit community by running moonshine across the state line.
Set in early 1930s Virginia and adapted from Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest County In The World, Nick Cave’s script corrals its fair share of rootin’ tootin’ cliches to a fine bluegrass-tinged soundtrack. Yet, for its dramatic simplicity, John Hillcoat’s film packs a hefty punch, exploring the bonds of trust that are tested to their limit when the bootleggers are pummelled senseless by the long arm of the law. In the mountains of Franklin County, local cops turn a blind eye to the illegal activities of Forrest Bondurant (Tom Hardy) and his siblings Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf). The brothers run a successful bar and eke out a comfortable living by trading moonshine, made at secret distilleries maintained by Jack’s disabled pal, Cricket (Dane DeHaan). The siblings’ business empire threatens to crumble to its foundations when sadistic Special Deputy Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) arrives from Chicago on a mission to shut down the distilleries at the behest of District Attorney Mason Wardell (Tim Tolin). “I’m the one who’s going to make your life real difficult from now on if you don’t tow the line, country boy,” Rakes tells Forrest. However, the eldest Bondurant isn’t threatened and rudely dismisses the big city hotshot. As young love blossoms between Jack and preacher’s daughter Bertha Minnix (Mia Wasikowska), Rakes sets about dismantling the brothers’ operation from the inside, targeting weak links including dancer Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain), who has recently taken up a position as a waitress at the bar. The subsequent, blood-spattered feud between the cop and a defiant Forrest - “We don’t lay down for nobody!” - underpins Hillcoat’s gritty Prohibition-era thriller. Lawless pulls few punches in its depiction of the senseless violence meted out by the two sides. A late-night attack on Forrest is particularly graphic. Hardy delivers a brooding central performance, maintaining his stoic hard man image around Chastain’s emotionally battered love interest. However, it’s Pearce who scorches every mud- and blood-smeared frame as a obsessive-compulsive bully who hides behind his police badge. “Have you any idea what a Thompson sub-machine gun does to a mortal,” he giggles to one petrified cop, who believes the Bondurants to be immortal. The Oscars love a bad guy and a Best Supporting Actor nod might well be Pearce’s reward for this simpering villainy. Gary Oldman is underused in an eye-catching role as the suave mobster who Jack hopes to emulate. LaBeouf’s tender romance with Wasikowska sweetens Hillcoat’s bitter pill but don’t expect a happy ever after. When these varmints stray beyond the point of forgiveness, death is the only absolution.
ANNA KARENINA (12A): Beautiful yet bored socialite Anna (Keira Knightley) travels from St Petersburg to Moscow to provide emotional support to her sister-in-law Dolly (Kelly Macdonald), who has just discovered an affair between her husband Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) and the family governess. En route, Anna meets Countess Vronskaya (Olivia Williams) and her son, dashing cavalry officer Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is wooing Dolly’s 18-year-old sister Kitty (Alicia Vikander). At the latter’s debutante ball, Anna shamelessly dances with Count Vronsky, sowing the seeds of her downfall. The wife returns to Moscow to her politically influential husband, Alexei (Jude Law), but Count Vronsky follows, determined that Anna should run away with him, despite the shame they would both bear for such a betrayal.
Toccata Tuesday, Fishlake Church: Historic Fishlake Church (Saint Cuthbert’s) provided a wonderful setting for the third of this year’s “Toccata Tuesday” events in support of Doncaster Choral Society. Exuberant conductor Dr Simon Lindley presented a very wide range of music beguilingly played on the superb Victorian organ resident in Saint Cuthbert’s and on the Witmeyer harpsichord once owned by the late Dr Roger Bullivant. There were many highlights, among them a cheerful Voluntary by John Stanley (born 300 years ago in 1712 whose playing was hugely admired by Handel, no less), music from Handel himself – the Harmonious Blacksmith variations, and, from Dr Samuel Wesley, came the evergreen Air and Gavotte. More exotic fare came from composers Pasquini and Zipoli together with Alec Templeton’s Bach goes to town. Dr Lindley presented the music in a diverting manner, offering much of interest and historical context in a style that informed as well as entertained. Among those present were the Bishop of Doncaster, The Right Reverend Peter Burrows and Mrs Burrows, along with Fishlake parishioners and residents and many members, supporters and friends of Doncaster Choral Society. The Rev Eve Atherfold, Vicar, introduced the proceedings and the evening was enhanced by magnificent refreshments and a warm welcome from Fishlake folk. This is the second of three annual seasons of the Toccata Tuesday project in aid of DCS’s Millennium Fund. Dr Lindley explained something of the financial equations involved in presenting concerts with fine soloists – some of international stature – and supported by the visionary playing of Sally Robinson’s National Festival Orchestra. * GLS