Runtime: 1 Hour
and 33 Minutes
Aside from some of the dialogue, there is nothing particularly horrible
about this film. Yet, as I watched it, I couldn't really see a reason
for its existence. When you're watching a movie and thinking that,
it can't be a good thing.
Needless to say, I didn't walk in expecting "The Good, the Bad
and the Ugly". The latter stars Clint Eastwood (A.K.A. "God")
this movie stars the son of James Caan. There's a slight discrepancy
there, I think you will notice. And it doesn't favor "American
Outlaws". But it's been a while since we had an honest-to-goodness
Western. "Shanghai Noon" was a playful, fun western involving
Jackie Chan. "Wild, Wild West" was a playful, fun western
in the "Men in Black" mold. But a straight western? We haven't
had one of those in a few years.
Well, we still haven't. This film has its heart in the right place,
but as one watches it, one is reminded of "Young Guns",
another film that had a cast of fresh-faced young men trying to convince
us they were outlaws. I'm sorry, but this bunch of guys looks more
like a boy band than a group that might inspire terror and earn respect
in the Old West. I'm sure that, in the real Old West, people this
young really were outlaws. However, I'm also sure that those men didn't
look like they just stepped off a GQ cover.
But I don't just want to pick on the cast (and, in truth, Scott Caan
and Colin Farrel do about as well as they can with their thinly-written
roles). There are much bigger problems. For one thing, there is nothing
really original about this plot. The plot paints the James gang as
a well-meaning, Robin-Hood-like bunch of guys who only rob banks that
hold money of the evil railroad barons and then give a large share
of it to the poor. Now, this probably isn't historically accurate.
And I don't really care about the historical accuracy of a film like
this, quite frankly. But I would like it if the heroes weren't made
into saints. The great thing about the Leone westerns is the moral
ambiguity of the main characters. None of that is in evidence here.
And the plot moves with extreme predictability. You will know where
this film is going from the first frame. That wouldn't even bother
me if there were some flair to the whole proceedings, but there isn't.
This is a by-the-numbers western. The action isn't even all that great.
The action sequences are edited so rapidly that it seems more like
a trailer for a western movie rather than a western movie itself.
You get the impression that something is happening, you just don't
get to enjoy it. The end sequence involving a train wreck, however,
is pretty exciting. It just comes a little too late.
I must, however, commend Timothy Dalton. It's very nice to see him
working again, and especially here. He is a wonderful foil for Jesse
James. Not so much a bad guy as a guy with a job to do who still has
a good deal of respect for Jesse. Amidst the sneering villains of
the piece, he is a joy to behold. If he were this charismatic in more
films, he might work a little more often.
In the end, "American Outlaws" isn't an awful film. It's
just not a very memorable one. Lame dialogue, no spark to distinguish
itself, bland actors and bland situations all led me to shift in my
seat more than any movie I've seen in quite some time. It's not all
bad though: it did put me in the mood to watch a real western. Something
by Leone, perhaps.