James Jay Edwards of FilmFracture wrote:
"Like all good crime films, the heroes in "Lawless" are the criminals and the villains are the cops. The anti-heroes are much more likable than the folks who are trying to bring them to justice, and since everyone knows what a silly law Prohibition was, the viewer can't help but root for the Bondurants in the same way that they root for Bonnie and Clyde, Mickey and Mallory, Tony Montana and Patrick Bateman. The charismatic Bondurants are far more fun to watch, therefore making them much better protagonists than the arrogant Charlie Rakes, effectively putting them in the moral right in the audience's eyes. "Lawless" keeps with the outlaw hero formula that accompanies the greats, setting it up to become an instant classic of the true-crime genre."