Outlaw King - Review

Outlaw King is Netflix's newest film. It serves as a spiritual sequel to Braveheart in a way. Chris Pine's turn as Robert The Bruce is a visually sensational tale based off a true story.

The movie originally debuted at TIFF, and was met with less than a warm reception. Director David Mackenzie went back to the editing room and shaved nearly over 20 minutes off of it before premiering the new cut on Netflix. I did not see the original cut, but there does seem like there is a lot missing in terms of character growth.

There is hardly any character development. The relationship between Robert and his brothers is practically non-existent. The audience is expected to just buy into it automatically. The relationship between Robert The Bruce and his new wife Elizabeth (Florence Pugh) seems forced in some ways.

The acting makes up for it though. Pine churns out a fine performance, with an accent that isn't as troublesome as it could have been. Pugh electrifies on screen. She is the best actor in every scene that she is in. A supporting cast that includes Kick-Ass and Avengers: Age Of Ultron star Aaron Taylor Johnson, Tony Curran (Doctor Who) and Braveheart alum James Cosmo make the actors in this film one of its strongest assets.

The pace of the movie apparently was the outcome of the new edit, as it moved pretty well. The action in the movie however was gratuitous. I don't need implied violence - stories like this need explicit violence to be told. But there is a line, and after seeing the 9th or 10th horse impaled and their guts spill out (happens to humans too) the point is driven home. It is overkill in a sense, no pun intended.

With that being said, the film drives the point home well. It shows how tough things were then, and shows what Robert The Bruce and Scotland did to get out from under England.

Some of the characters blend together, and some of the details in why they are burning this or that gets muddled. But the main point is independence, and it is felt at every turn.

Outlaw King isn't as flashy or polished as Braveheart. The catalyst for this story is the death of William Wallace, which was Mel Gibson's character in the 1995 film. So they would serve as a nice double feature together.

The little character development that does happen involves Robert's daughter Marjorie. She forms a bond with Elizabeth, and Robert convey's his love for her on many occasions. If anything had to make it, it was nice that it was that relationship. Robert and Elizabeth get some moments too, but they don't feel as earned.

David Mackenzie knows how to direct a movie - Hell Or High Water is one of the best movies of 2016. The gorgeous Scottish landscapes on display here make the movie a visual pleasure. The strong acting performances puts another one in the win column for the film. The fascinating true story this portrays does too, though there are very healthy liberties taken throughout. The execution of using those elements to their full potential is what is squandered here.

Overall, Outlaw King is one of the better Netflix films. But a film devoid of character development can only be shallow at best. It's unfortunate that this was the fate of the movie, which seemed to be used as a spectacle of violent visuals in lieu of true storytelling.

Outlaw King is now streaming, exclusively on Netflix.


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