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Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Dane DeHaan, Noah Taylor

Director: John Hillcoat

There hasn't been a moonshine movie in quite a while, so this is a welcome, if ultra-violent addition to the genre. Wonderfully well set in period, the story focuses on the three real-life 'invincible' Bondurant brothers, illicit moonshiners manufacturing bootleg whiskey in Franklin county, Virginia 1931, while Prohibition was still in force.

The eldest, Howard (Clarke) has survived WW1, while the middle, leader and most dangerous, monosyllabic Forrest (Hardy, whose dialogue is almost as difficult to hear as in The Dark Knight Rises), has fought off Spanish flu. Jack (LaBeouf), the youngest, who has an eye for churchgoing Bertha (Wasikowska), finds himself beaten up by new government agent Rakes (Pearce), a perfumed borderline-psycho who heads a new group of enforcers as the authorities seek to clear the county of bootleggers.

Helping out at the bar, the brothers' only legitimate enterprise, is Maggie (Chastain), who has left behind a murky past in Chicago. Meanwhile, the brothers' bare existence is belied by the dashing clothes Jack buys from the money they make.

Apart from the souped-up violence, there's nothing much here we haven't seen before and the story doesn't really move coherently from one event to another. The brothers are all well-drawn and -played, but Pearce's villain is rather too extravagant for comfort, Oldman a peripheral figure as the tommy-gun wielding local public-enemy-number-one, and the final shootout too arbitrarily staged, with little sense of excitement.

People who dislike seeing throats cut should be warned that there are two or three occasions here where they should be looking away.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Momentum (Weinstein Co). Technicolor.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 01 Sep 2012