The surprise entry on Screen Rant‘s 20 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 list was that of Wettest County (since retitled Lawless), an adaptation of Matt Bondurant’s true-story book “The Wettest County in the World.” Now that we have an actual trailer for the period crime drama, it should become all the more obvious how this flick managed to grab our attention so early on.

Lawless marks the second collaboration between musician/screenwriter Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat (The Road) after The Proposition – and reunites the pair with the star of that grisly western, Guy Pearce, along with a who’s who of respectable names like Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan and Jason Clarke. (Oh, yeah, and Shia LaBeouf).

Cave and Hillcoat’s Depression-era crime tale revolves around the Bondurant brothers (Hardy, LaBeouf, and Clarke), a trio of Virginian bootleggers who run a successful, small-time moonshining operation. However, when young Jack Bondurant (LaBeouf) impulsively pushes to expand the family business so as to impress a local Amish girl (Wasikowska), it ends up attracting unwanted attention from outsiders – including the corrupt Special Agent Charlie Rakes (Pearce) – who want a slice of the pie.

As you would expect, much violent mayhem and bloody retribution follows.

Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf in 'Lawless'

The trailer for Lawless makes the film look like a mixture of elements borrowed from Michael Mann’s Public Enemies and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, with some western (Virginian?) seasoning added for good measure. Combine that with a storyline chock-full of classic crime genre themes about family loyalty and the fine line between outlaws and heroes – along with what appear to be excellent performances (and accents) all around, even from the not-always-dependable LaBeouf – and this new footage has only heightened our anticipation for Lawless.

Lawless won’t hit theaters until the end of the Summer movie season; customarily, that’s a dumping ground for Hollywood, which could be interpreted as a bit of a red flag for the film. On the other hand, that move strategically positions Lawless to benefit from Hardy’s heightened status in the more immediate aftermath of The Dark Knight Rises. So that could be the real reason behind the release date.

Look for Lawless to storm theaters around the U.S. on August 31st, 2012.

Source: iTunes Movie Trailers