On its father's side of the family, Outlaw comes from the British gangster genre,
humorless division. The maternal half traces its lineage back to Death Wish.
Sean Bean stars as a returning war vet with some psychological
problems and a rucksack full of automatic weapons. He finds that the
life he's returned to in Britain is shattered. His wife is involved
with someone else, and the country he fought for is filled with
criminals and street thugs. As time goes on, he hooks up with a
handful of disillusioned men who have been let down by the justice
system. For example, there's a barrister whose wife was killed by a
mob boss he was prosecuting. The prosecutor can't prove the connection to the
mobster in court, so he turns to Bean and his recruits. Bean eventually
teaches his rag-tag army of middle-class wankers to man up, and with
the aid of a sympathetic policeman (Bob Hoskins), they form a Robin
Hood vigilante gang to take on the people who wronged them.
Bean, Danny Dyer, and Hoskins do provide plenty of talent for the
project but, like Dr. Frankenstein, they should have used their genius
for good instead of evil. The story is trite and fundamentally
unsatisfying. It can be boring and repetitious throughout the
development stages of the story, and the dramatic conclusion doesn't
even provide the usual revenge fantasy catharsis. Every member of the
gang dies except one, and several of their enemies survive, including
the snitch who rats them out and the crooked cop who ends up being the
mastermind behind the mob boss. Because of those developments, Outlaw
plays out like a revenge flick without enough revenge. On the other
hand, the director contends that it is not intended to be a
sensationalized genre film. His commentary says, "People
have to watch it twice. It's a serious film!" So possibly
it is supposed to be a meaningful drama that has been pimped out with
lurid ultra-violence to dramatize the deterioration of social
conditions in England.
On the other hand, he also says, ""I'm really enjoying myself," he
says, "We've been shooting fucking armed robberies, shooting
shoot-outs, shooting fights breaking out in a pub, people getting the
shit kicked out of them in streets."
Whether it is intended to be sensational or thoughtful, it won't
ever find much of an audience. It's too
one-dimensional and visceral for the Ken Loach social realism crowd,
and too ambivalent for the Charles Bronson revenge audience.
I don't know whether the director was trying to make a thoughtful film,
but I do know this much. I will not follow his recommendation to watch