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Since John Hillcoat’s first pairing with celebrated indie musician Nick Cave in 1988 (Ghosts…of the Civil Dead), the pair has forged a relationship that has produced some challenging and engaging cinema, notably 2005’s The Proposition.

Their latest foray Lawless continues on the theme that’s now a fascination for Cave and Hillcoat – the outlaw heroes of the Wild West. It’s understandable given Cave’s oeuvre and the duo’s Australian heritage that such damaged characters could become heroic protagonists and for this Lawless excels.

The film is violent in a very unflattering way, yet remains human enough to engage the audience. The acting is excellent with ladies Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska the standouts. Unfortunately, however, Lawless doesn’t stick with you as much as Hillcoat and Cave’s past efforts but is certainly worth a watch. (NH) ***1/2