Wanted Dead or Alive
Outlaw King (2018): 8 out of 10: Robert the Bruce declares himself king of Scotland and looks to lead his people from under the tyranny of an English king.
The Good: The acting: Chris Pine performance in this film is amazing. There are a few scenes where you can tell its Chris Pine, a smirk here or a glance there. For most of the film, however, he simply disappears in the role. Certainly, a performance that could gather some awards.
I already praised Florence Pugh as the best thing in Malevolent, and she threatens to be the best thing here. She also looks the part. She comes across as both a child bride in an arranged marriage (a price for Robert the Bruce to not betray the English) and a woman who can hold her own. If HBO had any sense, they would find a way to do a Game of Thrones spinoff starring Pugh. She is that magnetic and in touch with the material.
The sets and costumes seem spot on and genuine. Excellent use of extras and scenery. You can tell this was a true labor of love by director David Mackenzie. Outlaw King has a wonderful understated realistic feel. A beautifully shot film.
The action scenes are also really well done. Very realistic and yet tense. Appropriate scale for the times and the type of warfare.
The Good Naughty Edition
In the middle of Outlaw King is one of the best sex scenes I have seen in a while. Not just because it is Chris Pine and Florence Pugh (Though that certainly does not hurt) but because it is one of the sex scenes so well choreographed and acted you are convinced the characters are actually having sex (and actually enjoying themselves.). The acting particularly by Pugh really sells it.
Reminiscent to the almost marathon hardcore style sex scene in the middle of the otherwise non-sexy Don’t Look Now (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) this sex scene has a level of commitment and realism rarely seen in films where the sex scene is the point of the movie. (I am looking your way average porn movie or rom-com).
Netflix, by the way, lists Outlaw King as having brief nudity. I wouldn’t call it brief, but maybe they were not using the pause button as aggressively as I was.
The Bad: One cannot watch or review Outlaw King without using Braveheart as some sort of touchstone. (Sorry Rob Roy). Outlaw King cleans Bravehearts clock in things like historical accuracy and costume design. It certainly holds its own against Braveheart in acting chops. I would argue that it also has better (and more realistic) battle scenes than Braveheart. But the race isn’t one-sided. If I were to rate them, I would give them a gentleman’s tie.
You see, Braveheart is about William Wallace and Outlaw King is about Robert the Bruce. Mel Gibson knew exactly what he was doing when he picked Wallace. A true hero’s tale of a lesser noble avenging the death of his wife and driving both the English king and his Scottish lackeys crazy. Robert the Bruce on the other hand…. To put this in Star Wars terms, Gibson made a film about Han Solo while Mackenzie made a film about Lando Calrissian if we are being generous or Sheev Palpatine if we are not.
I understand that Robert the Bruce is a national hero and time and patriotism will smooth some rough edges. Everyone admires Washington Crossing the Delaware, but few then remember why he was crossing and what he did when he got there.
I think Chris Pine does a fantastic job, but that is not Robert the Bruce. It is some sort of sensitive man who declares himself king out of loyalty to his people. He likes children and animals and takes no for an answer in such a sensitive way. If only those other Scots would listen to him and follow him instead of fighting among themselves.
The actual Robert the Bruce was a bastard. He killed anyone who stood in the way between him and the Scottish throne. English and Scots alike. One historian said his story was Macbeth, but with a happy ending. Imagine if Benedict Arnold had stabbed Washington to death then betrayed the British and led the American Revolution. Yeah, that is our guy.
Outlaw King also makes the common mistake of trying to stack the deck by making the opponents of our protagonist easily identifiable bad guys. You know raping, pillaging, swan chocking, scenery-chewing bad guys. It is a bit silly.
The Ugly: The movie had over twenty minutes cut from it for theatrical release and you can feel it. It is a relaxed film for a Scottish war epic but particularly, in the beginning, it could have used a bit more background on who was who and what was what.
In Conclusion: This is a really good film with some flaws. Outstanding performances and scenery and costumes go a long way to making this an enjoyable romp. I have a feeling that scenes were added and subtracted due to focus groups rather than artistic vision, causing the rough edges to be filed off of more than just the main character.
Well, we got a trailer. Oh, and a deleted scene that looks like fun.
We have a new record!!! Pop the champagne corks and send up the fireworks Outlaw King has dethroned previous reigning champ Pride & Prejudice in sheer number of screenshots take for the review.
After Pride & Prejudice won with lets face it eighty shots of Keira Knightley (with a couple of Rosamund Pike and Tamzin Merchant pictures thrown in) you may assume that you are about to be treated to a bevy of Florence Pugh glamor shots.
While there are certainly a few of those, that is not the reason we have a new champ. The reason is Witcher 3 and Scottish screensavers. There are scenes in Outlaw King that are right out of Witcher 3 as in hey that is the Bloody Baron’s castle and hey I was on this road while riding Roach.
Add to the fact this Derry born boy spent some of his childhood living in Scotland and the homesick shots come pouring through.
As a result of the sheer number of shots, we are going to split them up in four categories. Pugh (Come on, you knew that would be first), Witcher 3, Sightseeing, and miscellaneous with any commentary pictures up front.