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Film Three Stars

Outlaw is the next film from Nick Love, following on from his well received eighties British gangster's abroad film The Business (Filmstalker review to come). The film sees a soldier returning from active duty abroad disillusioned with the life offered to him in Britain, the lack of respect, how lawless society has become and the general decline of society.

Meeting with like minded individuals almost by chance, he forms a small group who set about trying to fight back, and soon they discover the perils in becoming vigilanties, and indeed, outlaws.

The film leads with Sean Bean, Love favourite Danny Dyer, Lennie James, Sean Harris and Bob Hoskins, so there was a good promise with the cast as well as the story.

Outlaw.jpgThe film looks at a British soldier, Bryant (Bean), returning from active duty overseas and trying to reintegrate into the real world. He returns home to find his wife with another man, gangs of kids hanging around on the street making threatening gestures, criminals unaffected by the law, drugs being sold on the streets without recourse, it's basically modern day Britain.

Bryant has had enough, and slowly he comes into contact with a few other people who are liked minded, and before long, almost without intention, they are teaming together to stand up to the darker and seedier elements that are putting these good people down.

It starts with a man in a pub shouting a racial slur at Cedric Munroe (James), and quickly builds to drug dealers and then the local gangster, and before long their initial intentions aren't so clear cut, and that's when they have to start making some difficult choices.

Straight away you are confused, the first segment introduction to the Gene Dekker (Dyer) character leaves you wondering if you're in a dream or reality, and it takes a few moments of the other characters introductions for you to realise where you are. Still, until we revisited the Dekker character in earnest I wasn't sure if his introduction had been real or not.

Once this confusion is out of the way I began to get more interested. The main characters of the tale, the outlaws, are introduced one by one, and each has their own event that brings them to the position in their lives where they want to fight back against the scum that is rising up in the streets.

I particularly liked the way that the characters were introduced, that they got their own time on screen for you to find out who they are in real life before the are drawn to the character of Brynat.

The story is quite a strong and enjoyable one, it gets right to the heart of a problem that is hitting today's society and deals with it head on, in a way every one if the audience have thought about before and dreamed of doing. Revenge, vengeance, violence, vigilantism.

The characters are written well, and are quite real, something I feel does come out well from Love's scripts, everything has a firm footing in reality and seems as though it could happen round the corner from you. Dialogue is equally as real and as sharp, and there's no punches pulled in what they say, how they say it or even in their actions. People are real, and they behave as such.

All this managed to take you into the story and the characters very easily and right from the beginning. These early character building scenes make you believe that these people are who they say they are, that they are suffering, and that they would be driven to the choices they make.

It's fair to say that the transition from normal working people to the beginnings of a vigilante squad do touch a nerve. The initial scenes of the guys beginning to stand up, stand together and fight back do grab your empathy. For we've all felt like this at some point and we've all wanted to go out and get our revenge on someone who has wronged us. Sean Bean's motivational speech is perhaps the hardest hitting moment in all of this, and his words will have you taking a sharp intake of breath, but at the same time you'll find yourself agreeing with the sentiment.

That's an excellent thing for a script to be able to do, and Love does it with Outlaw.

The soundtrack helps the film quite a lot, it builds the tension and suspense well during key scenes, and helps to lighten moments during others, but all the time you can feel the levity in the story and feel that tension rising.

However, it's not all good. For a good part of the film there's an incredibly self conscious attempt at some stylised camera work in the vein of NYPD Blue and The Shield. Unfortunately it looks far too contrived, too forced, and is just too much for the most part. The camera seems to move in a series of jerky movements with the odd zoom in/out thrown in for good measure, and they all happen on a regular beat. It's perhaps the most annoying and intrusive camera work I've witnessed on screen. It truly is terrible.

Luckily, just over half way through the film you start to forget it's there, or it actually dies down. I hope it's the latter, but whatever it was I know that at some point we were seeing more fixed shots and normal pans and zooms, shots which didn't try to overpower the story and the performances. A testament to the film is that the story and the very performances that could have been so affected by the camera actually help you to pull through it.

That's something that does deserve praise, a few of the performances. Bean was superb. There's a moment early on when we see him talking to the security guard in the hotel he's staying in and you can visibly see him losing it, shaken up his emotions start to fall apart, and in the subtlest of expressions you can see the torment he's carrying. From there on it is pretty much an anger and fear fuelled character, until the ending.

Hoskins was on fire, he reminded me of The Long Good Friday performance, where he was mean and incredibly scary. There are moments where this just leaps to the fore and it is so good to see that character come from Hoskins, and yet he also shows his own fear and uncertainty just as all the other characters do.

James and Dyer are also very strong, in fact Dyer seems to have visibly improved since The Business, although it is safe to say he's playing his character in a very similar way, and I don't mean the Londoner accent.

Harris is excellent as the creepy and quite unhinged security guard, really the catalyst that gathers them all together and provides the spark that makes them realise they could actually make a difference. His character slowly slips more and more over the line as each event happens, and his countryside performance is good for the film. Yet it's the quieter, earlier moments of the film that he's at his best, when he just radiates creepiness.

I was quite surprised by the ending, mainly because it did seem to come from nowhere, and that is a common theme in the story progression for me. The film didn't quite realise the potential it had in showing the crossing the characters made from wanting to stand up for themselves to becoming full blown vigilantes, and it never managed to properly portray the slow slipping of morals and who was right and who was wrong.

Even at one of the key pivotal scenes where their morality is shown as slipping and going too far, the man they are considering what to do with is known to be a cold blooded murderer and has been caught for assaulting a young girl. Suddenly any feeling of going too far is negated because there's no ambiguity, we just know that they have done this and so your sympathies fall firmly away from him and with the Outlaws.

Whenever issues escalated and the characters took a step further towards the ones they were trying to seek revenge against, there always seemed to be an overriding reason for them to do it, a justification that took way any feelings that they might be doing wrong or that their moralities were becoming quite questionable. This is something that I think they really failed to grab hold of in the film and bring home to the audience.

Overall though the film is very good and boasts some very strong performances. If you can abide the overly contrived shaking camera, and some of the plot failings, you'll have an enjoyable evening's entertainment.

UK IMDB Film Details


The Hills Have Eyes II
The trailer continues to impress, although I do now find myself wondering about the final scene with the creature licking the female soldier, there's just something about it that detracts from the horror element of the rest of the trailer.

The Breed
This looks utterly ridiculous, and I can hardly believe that Michelle Rodriguez has stooped this low. The story is about a group of twenty-somethings that head off to a deserted island for a weekend of partying, but are interrupted by the breed. Yes, it's a pack of wild and highly intelligent dogs, and by the looks of them, house pets gone bad. Somehow the dogs have mutated and have a high degree of intelligence, such that they chew the rope securing the sea plane and push it out to sea…oh lord…and Wes Craven's name is all over this.

Okay, I'm bored of the trailer now. I still think it's going to be good, but the trailer really isn't showing me anything special.



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