Directed by: David Mackenzie
Starring: Florence Pugh, Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tony Curran
I was once told if you go into a film expecting the worst, you will never leave disappointed. There is some truth in that. Early talk on Outlaw King suggested that it is the film that Chris Pine gets his cock out. Well, that is true. He does go full frontal (only for a fleeting moment), but it is only fair that he does. Florence Pugh and several other actresses have to show some skin, he is doing his bit for equality between the sexes. Surely you can’t expect everyone to get naked apart from him? Luckily Outlaw King is relying on more than a bit of nudity to be remembered.
The film reunites director David Mackenzie with star Chris Pine (after Hell or High Water) alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Florence Pugh. It is a violent and unflinching portrayal of a bloody tale in history. It is filmed in Scotland which provides a gorgeous backdrop. Scotland really is quite pretty.
Outlaw King is based on historical events (or so it says) of Robert the Bruce, a nobleman who was defeated by the English who was eventually crowned King of Scotland. Just imagine a sequel to Braveheart and this is it. Outlaw/King (the actual name) starts with Robert kneeling to King Edward Ⅰ of England. As a proud Scottish nobleman, he struggles with this especially when the King raises taxes and starts to attack the common folk.
Chris Pine sports a spectacular mullet as Robert Bruce. His accent is very subtle, in fact he barely talks at all. It is a brave decision to cast a non-Scottish actor as one of Scotland’s most famous folk heroes. He looks like he has bulked up (either that or everyone else is really small). Pine carries himself well. He fights, he makes love, he plays with his child and he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty. He is the ideal man.
Florence Pugh has a bit of a thankless task. She has such strong chemistry with Chris Pine and it is such a shame when she is literally hung out to dry. She plays Elizabeth De Burgh, Robert’s recent wife. This is a very macho picture, not a lot for a female character to do. It’s all men with swords hacking each other down. The little material Pugh’s character has is performed to the best of her ability.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is one of Robert Bruce’s right-hand men. As James Douglas, he transforms himself to such a degree that he is almost unrecognisable. His accent is flawed but he definitely is committed to the part. His performance is like a guy on a night out who had one too many drinks and taken too many drugs. He is off his head, wide eyes and wired who just wants to dance all night long. It is very entertaining.
The real selling point to Outlaw King are the battle scenes. Its been a while since we seen fights and battles on this scale (and remain entertaining). A fight at night lit mainly with flaming arrows and huge fires show that David Mackenzie has an eye for the dramatic. The costume design is also convincing, from the armor to Florence Pugh’s outfits.
Whereas with Braveheart which had a runtime of nearly 3-hours, Outlaw King is just under 2. Mackenzie cut 20 minutes from it after the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. This helps with the pacing and makes the film zip along at an entertaining rate. Sure this isn’t anything new but it keeps you interested in the characters and plot.
There are some concerns that this being a Netflix title, it may mean it won’t translate to the small screen. The battle scenes are made to be seen on the big screen. A lot of the shots are so tight that some of the details will get lost in all the chaos and mud.
Surprisingly, Outlaw King is worth the time. The big sweeping bloody and violent battle scenes paired with gorgeous scenery of Scotland and the convincing costume design makes quite a spectacle. This won’t bring any new fans to the genre but it will keep the die-hard fans happy. If you like your big battle scenes then Outlaw King will scratch that itch.