When a Midwest town learns that a corrupt railroad baron has captured the deeds to their homesteads without their knowledge, a group of young ranchers join forces to take back what is ...
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When a Midwest town learns that a corrupt railroad baron has captured the deeds to their homesteads without their knowledge, a group of young ranchers join forces to take back what is rightfully theirs. In the course of their vendetta, they will become the object of the biggest manhunt in the history of the Old West and, as their fame grows, so will the legend of their leader, a young outlaw by the name of Jesse James. Written by
There is just something about seeing a western that has real characters in it. What is it about outlaws that peaks our interest? What was it about Jesse James that made people love him so much? Was he really as benevolent as he was made to be in this film? Was he really as crazy and theological as he was in the Rob Lowe/Bill Paxton film Frank and Jesse? I'm not really sure, I would probably have to guess he was somewhere in between. In American Outlaws Jesse is played rather blandly by Colin Ferrel. I can honestly say that I wasn't overly interested in Jesse James in this film the way I was in Frank and Jesse. Rob Lowe had a much more complete interpretation of outlaw Jesse James. But what may be lacking in the leads is more than made up for in some of the supporting characters, and for that I would say that American Outlaws is almost worth seeing. Not quite, but if you have nothing better to do with $10.00, go see this film.
Gabriel Macht plays Jesse's older brother Frank and Timothy Dalton, of James Bond fame plays Alan Pinkerton, the man responsible for hunting down the James gang. Macht plays Frank James as the older and much wiser brother. He calmly solves disputes, writes and plans many of the heists and robberies and helps Jesse court the love of his life. Yet he is not there to take the spotlight away from his brother or from Cole Younger. Frank is basically a peacemaker. I enjoyed Macht's performance and when he was on screen the picture was a lot more interesting. He adds some needed credibility to a somewhat lame film. When you have great actresses like Kathy Bates looking disasterous in their small roles, you know you are in trouble. I don't know if you can attribute all of this to the director, Les Mayfield, but it has to start somewhere. The actors weren't really allowed to shine and maybe a few more takes should have been filmed before deciding on which one to use.
Two other actors stood out as well and one of them was Timothy Dalton. He seemed a little out of place in this film. He just looked as though he was one step ahead of everyone else and just seemed to know something that we didn't. He could make you think that just by a smirk, or a tone of voice or a tip of his black fedora. He is evil, conniving and yet he has some admiration for the James/Younger gang. He can empathize with their situation but his job is to hunt them down and kill them. I would like to see Dalton in more roles like this, he was fun to watch in this film. Also intriguing to watch is Will McCormack as Bob Younger. He is unfamiliar to me but anyone who watches The Sopranos religiously will recognize him from a few episodes. I thought he was believable in his smaller role as one of the Younger brothers. At first he comes off as being a little slow, but his character builds towards the end and eventually he turns out to be one of the stronger characters.
It's a shame that American Outlaws couldn't build a better script around these three characters because they seemed better than the script they were given.
American Outlaws isn't a bad film, it's not really a great one either but it is worth a look. If anything, it will make you want to go home and pop in your copy of Tombstone and remember what it is like to have compelling Western characters.
6 out of 10--could be better, could be worse.
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