Prohibition means profit to the bootlegging Bondurant brothers, until a new deputy appears wanting a cut of the action. When the family, led by oldest brother Forrest (Tom Hardy), refuses, it ignites a pattern of violent lawless retribution between the corrupt local authorities and the moonshine-selling brothers.

While adapted from the pages of a successful book, the plot of “Lawless” portrays a familiar story. A young romance slated against the challenges of a family who is literally and metaphorically, sticking to their guns. The brilliance of the film exists in the vivid set work, understated characterization, and graphic portrayals of unbridled yet historically accurate punishments.

There are bullet holes everywhere in this wild land of violence. The depictions of torture, while not the most graphically intensive in cinema, are characterized by psychological malice. The result is a film that manages to entirely pull the viewer into a different, much less civilized, time.

Led and narrated by seasoned actor, Shia LaBeouf, as the youngest brother, Jack Bondurant, the role is hardly a challenge. Yet his performances only stands out when supported by other cast members, such as the gangster Floyd Banner, played by Gary Oldman. And while LaBeouf’s performance is not a great as it could be, it shines next to his lackluster costar, Mia Wasikowska as Bertha Minnix the forbidden preacher’s daughter and object of young Jack’s eye.

The best performance in the film is not the lead, but that of his brother Forrest who dispenses well-timed wisdom or humor even in direst situations. Further helping in the films success are the supporting characters; the third Bondurant brother, Howard (Jason Clarke), mechanically gifted family friend, Cricket Pate (Dane DeHaan), and city wise beauty Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain).

While not as impressive as expected, the slow but steady story and complex visceral nature of “Lawless”, make it a film that is worth the price of a ticket, for anyone who can make it through the squeamish bits.