Southern-fried Godfather: diminutive kid brother (Shia LaBeouf, who seems to be trying a little too hard) wants in on the family moonshine business, but his godlike (read: unkillable) elders (a more impressive Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke) will hear none of it. We even get a botched assassination attempt and a hospital scene where the kid literally takes up the keys to the kingdom. The Shape of Things to Come is here played with grating oddity by Guy Pearce as a dandy, dirty Chicago lawman set on making everyone pay for protection. The South looks great (if a little washed-out now and then), and it was a pleasure to see some real backwoods faces up there alongside the Beautiful People. Plus, you get the requisite doses of Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley on the soundtrack. But the story is as sprawling as the kudzu, draggy as a summer Sunday afternoon, and uneven as a dirt road through the woods. You get racial tension, young love, old love, family conflict, conflict between families, city vs. country, progress vs. tradition, heathen vs. Christian, and brutal violence vs. syrupy sentiment, a big Southern burgoo of elements that never quite meld together, no matter how overheated the pot. With Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska. 2012.

1.0 stars

— Matthew Lickona

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