Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review: Netflix's "Outlaw King" is fuzzy on history, but big on fun.

Outlaw King Review
One of my earliest film experiences with my Dad was watching "Braveheart" with him. That may sound funny, but "Braveheart" will always have a sentimental value to me, and it will always be one of my all-time favorites. Whether you agree or not is not the issue, that movie is intertwined in my DNA at this point. Mel Gibson played William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter who wanted Scotland to be run by Scots during the medieval period and fought the English to make it so. By the end of the movie, Wallace has been captured and killed. His ally, Robert The Bruce, leads the Scots to war against the English after. We get a little epilogue of Robert The Bruce, played by Angus McFadden, charging into battle with all of Wallace's old allies as they chant his name. But that's all we get about Robert The Bruce's war.

If you saw that movie in 1995 and wondered what came of Robert The Bruce, now is your chance to find out if you've got a Netflix account. "Outlaw King" is the extension of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" epilogue. This time, Chris Pine plays Robert The Bruce. And much like Mel Gibson, I cackled through much of the movie, simply because Chris Pine's Scottish accent, much like Gibsons, is atrocious. Why can't Scots ever just be played by Scots? As much as Harry Potter sounded like a prime avenue for Steven Spielberg, imagining Haley Joel Osment as The Boy Who Lived gives me shivers. I am glad that authentic British story had authentic British actors.

All joking aside, Netflix's new original is actually pretty fun, much like "Braveheart." Although I am willing to bet that its full of historical inaccuracies. I am not sure though, I studied modern Britain when I was in college. There are just many moments in "Outlaw King" that feel a little too cinematic to be real world. But that's fine, "Braveheart'' is littered with historical inaccuracies. I don't judge movies by how well they get their history right, I judge them on how entertaining they are. I'd rip my hair out if I had to make a list of inaccuracies to..fuck any historical movie ever made.

I mean, come on. How am I not supposed to be entertained by Robert The Bruce taking a page out of Robin Hood's playbook and wage guerrilla warfare on Edward I (Stephen Dillane) because he doesn't want Scots to pay an English king taxes? How am I not supposed to be entertained by Aaron "Kick-Ass" Taylor-Johnson screaming and wailing swords around like he's on the set of Starz' "Spartacus?" How am I not supposed to be entertained by The Bruce's wife (Florence Pugh) being kidnapped by Edward I's son (Billy Howle) who is so gleefully evil, he might as well be twirling the mustache on his face? The movie is blissfully silly, but I think it works that way by design. The movie works overtime to please that only a churl will find fault. At least, that's what Roger Ebert would say.

Not everything works. The battle sequences are kind of a letdown. Simply put, they are just feel very small. This movie had a small budget and it shows. The battle scenes kind of look like a bunch of people wearing costumes and playing those pretend fighting games in the park. They don't look like epic battles from a Hollywood motion picture. Plus, once everyone gets muddy from battle, I actually couldn't tell who was a good guy and who wasn't. Which can kind of be a problem, I like knowing who I am rooting for, sometimes in "Outlaw King," it was hard to tell.

I think by design, awards seasons were definitely not on this film's mind. I think Chris Pine does enough good to carry the movie, but again that accent. What a hoot. But perhaps I am being too hard on him. Perhaps this isn't a movie you should take seriously. The actors make it count. The script really doesn't do anything obscenely stupid, it just tells an entertaining story well. You'll have to consult a History Professor to see if they are pulling their hair out because "that one battle didn't happen that way." But who cares. "Outlaw King" is a fun movie, plain and simple. So sit back and enjoy.

FINAL GRADE: B

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