Based on a true story, this Prohibition story set in 1931, aspires to greatness and while entertaining, falls short of that mark. Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Jason Clarke are the BonDurant Brothers, independent moonshiners making illegal whiskey in the back hills of Franklin County Virginia.
Mr. Hardy, as Forrest, has terrific screen presence even with little dialog. Mr. Clarke (so good on Showtime's short-lived series "Brotherhood") is very capable as the hotheaded Howard but Mr. LaBeouf tries too hard as the youngest brother, Jack, trying to make a name for himself in the family business. The standard for transitioning into the family business remains Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. Mr. LaBeouf doesn't even come close.
Jessica Chastain wanders into the story for no reason except to brighten up the screen with her wardrobe. She's an excellent actress but her character seems very artificially placed. Gary Oldman has two "blink and you miss him" scenes and is completely wasted. Mia Wasikowska is the love interest for Mr. LaBeouf and out acts him in every scene. Guy Pearce chews the scenery as Charley Rakes, the lawman brought in to put the brothers out of business. Rakes is a most bizarre character and if portrayed accurately, that's even more incredible. Words fail to describe Mr. Rakes.
Director John Hillcoat and screenwriter/composer Nick Cave have collaborated before on the excellent Australian western, "The Proposition" (also starring Mr. Pearce). Here they attempt a Terrance Malick atmosphere and while the cinematography is excellent, making good use of the Georgia countryside, the film never quite reaches that quality. Mr. Cave's script is filled with illogical holes and overly dramatic dialog, again reaching for more than it is, a backwoods western that only comes alive in the violent and bloody action sequences.
This is a film with a good cast trying to make a great movie. It succeeds as entertainment but I can't imagine any Oscars in it's future.