Tom Hardy disappears into character mode yet again as the ever versatile actor is teamed alongside Shia LaBeouf in the forthcoming period thriller Lawless, a tale of three brothers managing to make a living and running the gauntlet of the bootlegging business at a time when America abstained from alcohol and remained bone dry thanks to the ill-conceived introduction of Prohibition.

Based on the book by Matt Bondurant and a subsequent screenplay by musician Nick Cave, film maker John Hillcoat may have found the perfect material to continue his stream of harsh but challenging character driven movies.

The director has already made his name with the stylish and raw western The Proposition (2005) whilst The Road (2009) saw Hillcoat dramatise the post apocalyptic bestseller by author Cormac McCarthy.

Bondurant's novel The Wettest County in the World has won acclaim stateside with a story based around the true life exploits of the writer's grandfather and granduncles during the twenties and thirties, a period which saw all three brothers operate their illegal moonshine operation whilst domiciled in Franklin County, Virginia.

In time honoured fashion the success of the operation ultimately attracts the attention of other interested parties including Gary Oldman's small town gangster and Guy Pearce's slippery federal agent not so bent on bringing the house down but rather eager to acquire a piece of the action.

Hillcoat has brought together a stellar cast to flesh out his period crime thriller with Jessica Chastain cast as drifter and love interest Maggie and additional support provided by Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska and the ever reliable Noah Taylor.

The rural backwater setting with its interaction of characters and their moral delimmeas feels almost Steinbeck in nature, whilst the escalating circle of violence and bloodshed borne out of greed and conflicting loyalties is reminiscent of the themes and motives found in HBO's outstanding series, Boardwalk Empire.

Initial footage shown via the film's trailer indicates that Hillcoat may have also given an epic feel to his thriller with a tone similar to that found in Michael Mann's excellent biopic of bank robber and outlaw John Derringer, Public Enemies (2009).

Hardy, Oldman and company certainly seem to be enjoying raising the ante with their violently motivated characters, each with their own reasons for making more than a fair dollar running moonshine whilst the feature may allow LaBeouf to sink his teeth into something more than the supersized blockbuster material that the actor has become accustomed to.

Combined with some stylish cinematography capturing the period setting and a director focused on character and motivation, Lawless promises to deliver an engaging crime epic rather than just a mere small town fight to the last man standing.

The omens look good.

Lawless is released in UK cinemas on 31st August 2012.

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