A&E » Film

On drugs and gangsters


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Marijuana is in the news a lot out here in B.C., with a lot of people calling the U.S.-spearheaded "War on Drugs" a total failure. Many are saying prohibition doesn't work and that one of the reasons we even have organized crime right now is due to the U.S. prohibition of alcohol from 1920-33.

Said Prohibition certainly produced its fair share of gangsters, but it also spawned the gangster movie. Flicks like the original Scarface (1932) and The Public Enemy came out before the Prohibition era even ended. Angels with Dirty Faces dropped in '38 and Hollywood has been enthralled with the genre ever since.

This week, director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) takes us back into the Prohibition but focuses instead on rural bootleggers. When the gangsters in the city unload a truck full of hooch in the middle of the night, this is where it came from.

Shia LaBeouf (Disturbia, Transformers), Jason Clark (Rabbit-Proof Fence, Death Race) and Tom Hardy (Warrior, Inception, Dark Knight Rises) play the Bondurant Brothers — bootlegger/distillers whose safe-sized operation gets a shake-up when the real gangsters roll into town. The G-men follow right behind, led by a particularly sadistic nutbar federal agent played by Guy Piece (Memento, Count of Monte Cristo) and what follows is a classic tale of ambition, corruption and the American Dream (with a preacher's-daughter love story tossed in for kicks).

Lawless is pretty badass but the story is hijacked by Hillcoat's attention to style. He continues to make meticulously great-looking films about the hard times and tough decisions (it can almost be called "bleak-chic") but he doesn't nail the pacing or character relationships this time around. Lawless doesn't careen uncontrollably towards a climax the way the best gangster films do and for three blood brothers the character relationships seem a bit hollow. Still, it's worth seeing. Lawless opens Friday at the always-good-times Village 8 Theatres.

Shia LaBoeuf is a bit of a gangster himself. He apparently grew up in one of the rougher parts of L.A. and, after cashing in on some blockbusters, seems happy to openly speak his mind. Recently he admitted to eating LSD on set to research for his role in the upcoming The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman and had this to say: "There's a way to do an acid trip like Harold and Kumar, and there's a way to be on acid."

Which is undeniably true and this committed-at-all-costs method acting has worked for guys like Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Christian Bale and Daniel Day Lewis. LaBoeuf claims to be tired of making big studio, Transformer-y style blockbusters and wants to work more on his craft. Chewing tabs on a movie set will undoubtedly provide plenty of insight. Best of luck to the guy.

Speaking of bad trips, Possession also opens Friday. It's a devil-inside horror rendition of the Pandora's box story filtered through a based-on-true-events account of a little girl who gets possessed by a gnarly evil spirit.

No pre-screenings for this one (good for horror films because surprise matters) but the bad news is it's rated PG. The good news is Possession is produced by Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider Man) and directed by Danish actor/producer/director Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch). It looks pretty awesome, despite Kyra Sedgewick.

I guess the lesson today is don't do drugs unless you're not afraid to admit it, and it's the innocent who usually get screwed over and/or possessed.

Also, whatever you do, don't get caught.