The center of narrative gravity is hard to locate; for whom are we rooting, and does anything really ripple outward from this nasty local fight?
- Anthony Lane, New Yorker, September 03, 2012
Fans of The Proposition will have to settle for sublimely evil performances by Gary Oldman (as a murderous rival) and Guy Pearce (as a government agent) and a large quotient of gut-wrenching violence.
- J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader, August 31, 2012
With a dynamite cast, an iconic screenwriter in rocker Nick Cave and an Aussie director in John Hillcoat, you assume a new classic. What you get is an ambitious try.
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, August 30, 2012
You can sense the filth, and smell the rust, and feel the ingrained poverty that might well convince a family of survivors (of World War I and the Spanish flu) to make their fortune selling moonshine to their neighbors.
- John Anderson, Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2012
There's something at the movie's heart that remains flimsy and inauthentic, a kid in his older brother's ill-fitting shoes.
- Dana Stevens, Slate, August 30, 2012
Much of the action may be nearly as grim as in director John Hillcoat's previous feature, "The Road" - "Lawless" is very bloody - but the scenery and production design are a whole lot nicer.
- Mark Feeney, Boston Globe, August 30, 2012
This isn't to say that there's not enough here, but just don't look for it all to add up.
- Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies, August 30, 2012
It's slight and casual to the point of laziness, but it's straight fun, done with knowledge and a laconic pleasure. You could do far worse.
- David Thomson, The New Republic, June 14, 2013
I can only admire this film's craftsmanship and acting, and regret its failure to rise above them.
- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, August 29, 2012
"Lawless" offers a compelling, gruesome and instructive time-travel exercise.
- Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com, August 29, 2012
At its core, this is a film about men doing violence to men. And they do plenty of it.
- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic, August 29, 2012
The unflinching slicing and dicing is viscerally brutal, but without sufficient character development Lawless simply feels lifeless.
- Claudia Puig, USA Today, August 29, 2012
This is a well-made movie that deserves a higher profile than it is being accorded.
- James Berardinelli, ReelViews, August 29, 2012
Ultimately, "Lawless" is just another gangster movie, and not a very good one ...
- Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger, August 29, 2012
The action is, overall, as exciting as the primary performances are impressive.
- Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News, August 29, 2012
This should've been a really good picture, especially with Hillcoat's crack ensemble. Instead it's a stilted battle waged between the material and the interpreters.
- Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, August 29, 2012
An inescapable sense of "so what?" sets in early with "Lawless," almost as soon as Shia LaBeouf begins his lackluster opening narration.
- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, August 29, 2012
A story of entrepreneurship, of family, of fighting for one's rights - the right to make white lightning, and money. It's as American as apple pie.
- Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 29, 2012
Turns the Virginia hills of the early 1930s into just another backdrop for a clockwork succession of perfunctorily filmed showdowns and shootouts.
- Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2012
Lawless is filled with forbidding shadows and verdant abundance, contrasting the indifference of nature with the violence of the humanity within it.
- Keith Phipps, AV Club, August 30, 2012