Where’s Oldman?

Every week, I set aside a little time to watch movie trailers online. It’s ostensibly so I know what’s coming up, but the fact is that even when I wasn’t covering film, I still did it. I love trailers, just because I love to see how studios try to sell their movies.

One obvious strategy is to play up a film’s stars, as is the case with the trailer for “Lawless,” which opened Wednesday. Long before I saw the movie, I was excited: Tom Hardy! Love him! Jessica Chastain! Love her! Gary Oldman! YES! Shia LaBeouf! Oh…kay! Let’s go back to Gary Oldman!

Which is why it was disappointing, to say the least, to find out that Oldman is in the film for something like seven minutes.

Sure, an actor can dominate a film in seven minutes — the go-to example is Judi Dench in “Shakespeare in Love” — but here, though Oldman does what he can, what you get is about seven minutes of Gary Oldman. Which I’ll take over seven minutes with nearly any other actor on the planet, but because the trailer strongly suggested his minutes onscreen would hit at least double digits, I couldn’t help but feel deceived.

Trailers are commercials, and I get that. Commercials can be misleading; as proof, I have a drawer full of mascaras that do nothing they promised. But the “Lawless” trailer is a perfect example of how a movie can promise so much without delivering.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Marc Silver · August 30, 2012