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Thursday, February 2, 2012

OUTLAW -- movie review by porfle

According to the makers of OUTLAW (2007), the current legal system in England is shockingly non-punitive toward the bad guys, who often get the old "slap on the wrist" for their crimes, which means that there may be an increase in vigilante violence in the future.  Which is what this bloody, action-packed thriller is about.  Which is why I thought it was pretty cool.

Sean Bean, one of those solid actors whose presence in a film is always welcome, plays Sgt. Danny Bryant, a paratrooper who has just returned from Iraq to find his wife in the arms of another man.  He moves into a cheap hotel that has a security guard named Simon Hillier (Sean Harris) who likes to watch people with the pinhole cameras he's hidden in their rooms.  Simon was rejected from the military on medical grounds but is generally good and hostile, which is why he becomes fascinated with Sgt. Bryant and all those cool guns he has in his suitcase. 

Meanwhile, we see various storylines featuring normal, non-violent men who are terrorized and degraded by bullies and thugs.  Gene Dekker (Danny Dyer) lives in fear that he will be unable to defend himself and his bride-to-be if attacked by hooligans, which comes to pass after a minor traffic accident leads to his getting the crap kicked out of him.  He's also pushed around by his boss at work, which adds to his constant humiliation.  Cedric Munroe (Lennie James) is a lawyer prosecuting a ruthless gang boss named Manning, and when he refuses to let up, his pregnant wife is murdered by Manning's underlings.  And then there's Sandy Mardell (Rupert Friend), whose scarred face and equally scarred psyche are souvenirs of a vicious beating by thugs who subsequently received light sentences and walked. 

Before long, Simon the security guard begins to introduce each of these wronged men to Sgt. Bryant, who, having nothing else constructive to do at the moment, decides to teach them not only how to defend themselves but to also aggressively seek revenge against the men who wronged them, with special emphasis on Manning and his murderous crew.  AFter a false start or two, they eventually form a unit that goes around doling out some serious butt-kicking to deserving slimeballs.  Bob Hoskins also stars as Walter Lewis, an aging cop who's tired of trying to work within the system and decides to help the vigilantes by giving them inside information.  But before long, the course of action they've taken leads to a downward spiral of increasing violence, betrayal, and moral turmoil that climaxes in a bullet-ridden bloodbath.

Sounds pretty cool, huh?  Not to a lot of English critics, who found the film morally repugnant and offensively violent.  But geez, isn't that what a good revenge flick is all about?  As long as it's well-made, which this film certainly is, I love seeing a movie where bad guys who have evaded their just desserts get what's coming to them, whether they be loudmouthed, bullying hooligans, intimidating smartass bosses, or gangsters who think they're above the law because they have the police on their payroll.  And if things fall apart in the end for our heroes and everything goes straight to hell in a bloody handbasket--well, that just makes the whole thing even more entertaining, doesn't it?

The cast, especially Sean Bean and the ever-wonderful Bob Hoskins, are superb, and director Nick Love (THE FOOTBALL FACTORY, THE BUSINESS)  shows lots of verve and style in putting his self-penned script to film.  With a Tangerine Dream-like musical score by David Julyan, who gained points for MEMENTO, lost them all with THE LAST DROP, and then gained them all back with this, OUTLAW looks good thanks to director Love and cinematographer Sam McCurdy's uncommonly skillful use of Shaky-Cam and muted colors. 

The action scenes, which include lots of beatings, shootings, and even a hanging or two, are well done, leading to the aforementioned blam-blam pow-pow sequence at the end which has a DIRTY DOZEN "who'll be left standing?" quality about it.  And just when it looks like the ending will be a real letdown, the last five seconds send the movie off with a satisfying bang.

OUTLAW is an updated version of the good old-fashioned DEATH WISH-style vigilante vengeance tale, with a meatier story, modern production values and sensibilities, and a cool twist here and there.  If you're not skittish and easily offended by such boorish subject matter, and you enjoy seeing the (comparative) good guys give the bad guys a healthy dose of their own medicine once in a while, then this movie just might temporarily slake your all-consuming thirst for vengeance.

Buy it at

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