Title – Outlaw King (2018)
Director – David Mackenzie (Starred Up)
Cast – Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh, Stephen Dillane, Rebecca Robin, Sam Spruell
Plot – The true story of 14th Century Scottish ‘Outlaw King’ Robert the Bruce (Pine) who bravely fought the much bigger and well organised British Army who were occupying he’s and his countryman’s lands.
“Thinking about revenge? It tears on the soul, but it can also be a weapon”
Review by Eddie on 12/11/2018
Having found success with smaller character driven films such as Starred Up and even more so critically and commercially with Hell of High Water in 2016, Scottish born director David Mackenzie has found himself in charge of his biggest feature yet with Robert the Bruce tale Outlaw King, a $70 million plus Netflix film that is one of the streaming giants most ambitious films yet in size and scope.
Unfortunately for the well-regarded filmmaker, Outlaw King has faced a rough journey to living rooms around the world after a disastrous premiere at this years Toronto International Film Festival where Mackenzie’s high-reaching epic was derided by critics as to long and plodding to be regarded as a success.
This unwanted publicity and advanced word of mouth lead to Mackenzie completely re-working his vision to scrap roughly 20 minutes of footage to create the version we now get to stream, a brave move from the director and one that is amiable and commendable in a day and age where a number of filmmakers refuse to take a hard lined approach to cutting runtimes but curiously with that Outlaw King feels like a rather rushed and unfocussed experience that suffers from the consequences of being re-focussed at the end game.
It’s not to say Outlaw King is a bad film perse, it’s actually an eminently watchable and often thrilling experience, a stunning opening tracking shot is the undeniable work of a master filmmaker while the visuals and battle scenes will be winners for any Braveheart or medieval fans but there’s something that feels odd and off about Outlaw King’s ebb and flow as we journey from key Bruce moment to key Bruce moment, with little time to stop and smell the roses or contemplate what has come before or what now lays before us a viewer.
There’s scarily little time spent on developing Bruce’s relationship with his family, either his wife or beloved brothers or in his engagement with his loyal band of guerrilla warfare soldiers and by the time the films thrilling final battle takes place (seemingly out of nowhere), you feel as though the film has rushed to its conclusion.
You can’t help but escape the feeling that having more time to flesh out the character of Pine’s Bruce or the life changing events he was going through to take back his country from the reign of the English would’ve benefited the film greatly, as Pine is a fine leading man presence in an untypical role for the Hollywood heartthrob whose ably supported by rising star Florence Pugh as his loyal second wife Elizabeth Burgh and in particular Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the fiercely determined James Douglas, with the actor bringing a feverish and manic energy to the role of a mistreated Lord.
Without this fleshing out, Outlaw King’s battles, character movements and performance can only take the film so far, becoming a visually grandiose yet emotionally cold film, that’s pace and structure feels rushed and curiously disengaging.
It’s a shame that the film feels this way, an unfortunate victim of a harsh and judgemental critical lambasting that changed the course of its destiny, a grand and high-reaching epic that would’ve possibly been the exact type of cinematic and large-scale film Netflix needs more of, that has now become a watchable and enjoyable experience but one that’s lacking the heart, soul and scope that would’ve made it so much more.
Final Say –
Outlaw King is a fine film but also one that feels like the victim of an overly harsh edit. Considering Mackenzie is such a fine curator of characters and place, Outlaw King’s failures in this area are a shame, as it ends up becoming another Netflix film that could’ve been.
3 pre-battle hot spring visits out of 5