Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 21st, 2008
Betrayed by their government and let down by the law.
Sean Bean (Sharpe's Challenge) stars in this hard-assed vigilante action film about a group of men who are sick of getting corn-holed by a society that's too lenient on criminal scumbags.
Bean plays Bryant, an Iraq war veteran who comes back to his home in Britain only to be shocked by how f -- -- ed up everything is. Violence plagues the streets, scumbags run around unpunished, and the authorities are powerless to protect the innocent. It's so bad that Bryant finds himself yearning for the simplicity and order of the war zone.
Parallel to Bryant and his frustrations is a group of other men, just as disillusioned by the way things are, and nurturing unquenchable anger. Munroe (Lennie James, Jericho) is a barrister whose wife and unborn child were brutally murdered by a crime boss he's prosecuting. And though he's at first reluctant to join up with Bryant and his gang of street mercenaries, he eventually succumbs to the siren call of righteous violence, and the Outlaws are born.
Aided by a police officer (Bob Hoskins) who has stomached one too many freed criminals, the Outlaws take to the streets, dispensing brutal payback, earning a larger-than-life pop-culture reputation and pissing off just enough powerful people to make their survival through the runtime questionable.
Outlaw is great piece of hard-boiled action from across the pond. Director Nick Love has fashioned an efficient examination of men overcome by anger and their perception of injustice and the lengths they will go to mete out their vendettas.
Love insists on his commentary track and the accompanying featurettes that he's fearful the British culture is headed toward the scenario he's envisioned with the film. That's probably a stretch, but who among us would argue that the worst of the worst often benefit from a soft and sometimes corrupt justice system? Love capitalizes on these misgivings and imbues his group of antiheroes with enough righteous fury to ingratiate themselves with the viewer...well, at least this viewer.
The Outlaws make a good point, and as tough as their methods may be -- tying villains to a chair and smacking them around with a baseball bat -- in the black-and-white world of an eye for an eye that they subscribe to, the punishment fits the crime. It's base appeal, more animalistic and emotional than practical, but there is a reason why a film like this resonates; there is plenty of indignation to be had at the expense of a broken system.
But enough philosophizing. How is Outlaw as entertainment? Top-notch. Less a nonstop action blitz and more a character-driven drama populated by segments of hardcore violence, Outlaw is propelled by the excellent performances of its cast. Bean, James, and Hoskins stand out, and will likely be the most recognizable to American audiences, but they're supported by equally good work from Danny Dyer, Rupert Friend, and Sean Harris as the mentally unstable member of the Outlaws. But this is James and Bean's film, two guys that are inexorably bound -- at least in my eyes -- to playing bad-asses, James in his excellent work as Hawkins on Jericho and Bean in everything he's ever done.
The action scenes are limited in scope, save for an active shootout at the end, so most of the violence is kept up-close and personal. Fans expecting high-octane mayhem will likely be disappointed, but the violence is appropriate for this type of film -- gritty and realistic.
The DVD is excellent. Transferred in a clean 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen the film is fine-looking, though soaked in a soft spinach-green color filter. Yeah, I know that sounds pretty bad, but it's a stylistic choice and it doesn't detract from the experience. The 5.1 audio mix is suitable, though the majority of the sound work is dialogue-driven. A great set of extra features is highlighted by an animated, f-bomb fueled feature commentary by Nick Love and Danny Dyer. A robust making-of documentary, deleted scenes, video diaries, featurettes on the film's extras and shooting the rave scene round out the bonus materials. It's an impressive slate.
Recommended. Outlaw packs a punch, in all senses.
Not guilty. Ka-pow!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Video Diaries