American Outlaws

The western is one of today's more neglected genres in the marketplace. There just are not enough good westerns out there. However, since one can make good westerns, one can also make bad westerns. American Outlaws falls squarely into the latter category. It is not even amusing to mock while watching. American Outlaws takes the bare bones of the Jesse James mythology and turns him into a cowboy Robin Hood, robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Why the changes? Who knows. Perhaps to make the movie seem more desirable to a younger demographic. At best, this is a western for the video game generation, a Young Guns without the fun, which means it will serve as the launching pad for many short-lived careers. Only Colin Farrell deserves some attention, and he is the one redeeming factor in American Outlaws.

Farrell (Tigerland, Ordinary Decent Criminal) has a smooth screen presence that causes him to be the center of every scene he is in. He has a natural charisma that seeps through the cheesy dialogue and bad action sequences. Farrell is Jesse James, a man who just wants things to go back to normal. He robs banks with his brother Frank (Gabriel Macht, The Bookie's Lament, Simply Irresistible) and the Younger brothers not just for their own monetary gain, but also to help their poor neighbors. See, the railroads are expanding, and they will stop at nothing to get the land they want. Led by Thaddeus Rains (Harris Yulin, Rush Hour 2, The Million Dollar Hotel), the railroad representatives try to buy the land, and if that doesn't work, they burn it. Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton, Time Share, Made Men) also tags along and serves as an inadequate adversary to Jesse James.

James' motivation is a desire to be with Zee Mimms (Ali Larter, Legally Blonde, Final Destination), the lovely girl next door. She does not approve of what he does, but everybody else considers him a hero. Much to the dismay of Cole Younger (Scott Caan, Gone in 60 Seconds, Ready to Rumble), the spotlight falls on James. The public ignores the younger brothers, preferring the dashing James who director Les Mayfield (Blue Streak, Flubber) portrays as a gentleman robber. This is escapist filmmaking, skipping over the all-important details like a story that makes sense. Screenwriter Roderick Taylor (with additional story credit going to John Rogers) is more concerned with witty quipping amongst the Youngers and the James' than anything else. When focusing on something else, he chooses loud, flashy action sequences that aren't as great as the movie thinks. None of the other actors, with the possibility of Macht, can hold their own against Farrell. Considering that Farrell is not in the movie as much as one would think, this is not a good thing.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated PG-13 for western violence.

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