BBFC Classification: 15
Director: Barry Battles
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Eva Longoria, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Daniel Cudmore, Clayne Crawford, Andre Braugher, Travis Fimmel, Zoë Bell, Michael Rapaport
The Baytown Outlaws is the directorial debut of Barry Battles and is being released via Universal Pictures, which may seem like a bit of a gamble for a major studio as grindhouse-inspired films by unproven directors don’t usually get pushed to the top of the marketing pile. But having a high-profile cast and a sharp script doesn’t do your chances of success any harm, so has Universal backed a winner?
The three Oodie brothers – Brick (Clayne Crawford), McQueen (Travis Fimmel) and giant mute Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore) – carry out off-the-record jobs for corrupt Sheriff Millard (Andre Braugher), but after a hit goes badly and they go to the wrong address and slaughter the wrong people, they are approached by Celeste (Eva Longoria) who witnessed the whole thing and who offers them a deal. She claims her godson Rob (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) has been kidnapped by her ex-husband Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton) in the hope of claiming the boy’s trust fund and will pay them $25,000 for his return.
Unfortunately she doesn’t give them the full story and it turns out that Carlos is a well-connected mobster who believes that Celeste is dead after having one of his goons shoot her three times. Now aware that this is not the case Carlos pulls out all the stops by hiring all manner of misfits – including a troupe of female biker assassins and Native American warriors – to hunt down the brothers and bring the boy back to him.
With more than a passing nod to the dusty sub-grindhouse works of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, on the surface The Baytown Outlaws could quite easily be passed off as another imitation of those director’s styles. But unlike many other films that have used Tarantino et al for inspiration, this film does it with a strong sense of genuine affection rather than just going for stylistic cool points.
The cast are all excellent, with each actor bringing enough to their part without ever hogging the screen. Despite the obvious star names of Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria, it’s Crawford, Fimmel and Cudmore who come off the best as the Oodie brothers, gaining our sympathies despite initially being of objectionable character. Mention must also go to Andre Braugher as Sheriff Millard, who plays his role with the same kind of despicable relish that he displayed in The Mist, only with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek.
The Baytown Outlaws is a solidly entertaining action-comedy that is slickly directed, well-acted and looks quite glorious, not being as grimy or washed-out as a lot of these films normally are and looking quite rich and colourful. Also, the soundtrack is excellent, with the likes of Clutch and Lynyrd Skynyrd – is there a scene in any film where playing ‘Free Bird’ in the background doesn’t improve it tenfold? – adding a real good ol’ boys feel to things. The plot is a little stretched to fill out the 99-minute running time, seemingly running out of steam in the third act before the final climactic battle brings the excitement levels back up again, and the pacing is a little uneven elsewhere, with characters coming and going all too quickly in an attempt to shove in as much action as possible. But overall, for a film by a first-time director this is good stuff and will hopefully open enough doors to give Barry Battles the chance to grow and expand his cinematic palette.
Special Features: Behind-the-scenes with cast and crew, theatrical trailer, original trailer.
UK Release Date: 26th December 2012