Review: 'Outlaw King' Is a Beautiful Mess
Isaiah Simeon ‘22 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
There are no bad scenes in Netflix’s new period-piece, Outlaw King, which makes it all more strange as to why the film doesn’t work.
Outlaw King follows Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) leading the grassroots resistance to reclaim Scotland from British rule in the fourteenth century.
The composition of the film is excellent, from the choreography to the cinematography. There is a refreshing lack of deceiving camera work used as a crutch for underdeveloped fight sequences. One scene in the opening of the movie shows Robert engaging in a playful duel with his soon-to-be enemy, Prince Edward II (Billy Howle). The camera pans around the two as they enhance blows while firing witty remarks at one another. The scene is all done in one cohesive shot, and unfortunately, it sets the bar a little too high for the rest of the film.
Not to say that the rest of the film is not beautiful – it certainly is – but that’s nearly all it is. The film sets out to tell a large story at the expense of its characters. There is little investment built in any of the characters (unless seeing Chris Pine’s penis counts as character development), so many of the emotional resolutions in the final scenes fall flat (much like Chris Pine’s … nevermind).
Although they are not given adequate time to shine, the actors still do a solid job. Howle strikes a great balance between a merciless warlord and a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brother with his portrayal of Henry II. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays James Douglas, a notoriously ruthless fighter who became seemingly animalistic in battle, and it would be wrong to say that Taylor-Johnson did not 100 percent go for it in terms of craziness.
Given the solid performances and the impressive film-making, it almost seems like a missed opportunity to not have this story be told in a more fitting medium – a ten-part miniseries for example. This would allow certain storylines that were not given enough attention in the film to be expanded upon, resulting in a better overall narrative.
Don’t misunderstand, this is a rare instance. Not every movie would be better as a miniseries.
Remember the ending of 1993’s The Sandlot, with the slow-motion shots on each kid with a little-written message on-screen about what happens to each one post-Sandlot era?
Yeah – that was dumb.
But it was okay because it was intentionally campy and silly. Outlaw King also does this, and it is also dumb, but unintentionally. In this case, it is a crutch, because the film is already well over two hours in, and it does not have time to show you what happens.
Aside from the lackluster storytelling, the film also has some weird tonal elements. For roughly 95 percent of the film, it is a grim reletting of Scotland’s gruesome struggle for independence. The other five percent is a Mel Brooks parody of said story. One particular joke is so dumb and out of place that it is memorable in the worst possible way.
“Outlaw King” is a beautiful wasted opportunity with a plethora of untapped potential, containing fragments of an enthralling story, overshadowed by the limitations of movie runtimes.
Overall Grade: B-
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