Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Monday, September 26, 2022 — Houston, TX

‘Outlaw King’: Clumsy but worthwhile

outlawking-courtesy-netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

By Michael VerMeulen     11/14/18 12:05am

Rating: 3.5/5

Although shows like “Game of Thrones” has seen a rise in popularity, medieval films have not followed suit. Production of such films is few and far between. Director David Mackenzie attempts to rectify this dearth of Middle Age epics with his new film “Outlaw King,” a flawed yet compelling piece of grand medieval entertainment.

The film follows the true story of Robert the Bruce, portrayed by Chris Pine, who reneges on his sworn fealty to England by starting a rebellion and taking the title of the King of Scots. Forced to work in stealth against a giant English force, Robert and his loyal band of outlaws attempt to reclaim Scotland’s independence once and for all.



The film’s biggest asset is its overall adhesion to history. Rather than using operatic grandiosity, Mackenzie instead attempts to replicate the raw reality of the film’s time period. This approach is manifest in the movie’s costume and production design, eschewing colorful visuals for a grittier, more practical look in keeping with the appearance of early-1300s Europe. Only when highlighting Scotland’s natural beauty does the film call attention to its visuals, a decision that highlights the characters’ admiration and respect for the land. This approach becomes most evident in the film’s brutal action set pieces. Unafraid to show blood and guts, the camera focuses on, rather than cuts away from, the horrifying images occuring to the characters. As a result, the audience experiences what the characters onscreen are experiencing.

Additionally, the performances are excellent across the board. Pine is compelling as the legendary Scot, bringing a welcome everyman quality to an inherently regal role. This quality is most evident in his scenes with the superbly expressive Florence Pugh, who plays Robert’s wife Elizabeth. The chemistry between the two is electric, making their relationship one of the surprising highlights of the film. As for Robert’s fellow rebels, Tony Curran is sterling as the endearing Angus MacDonald and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a beastly presence as the revenge-fueled James Douglas. As for the villains, Stephen Dillane brings welcome gravitas as the aging Edward I and Billy Howle is fittingly unhinged as his eager-to-please son.

However, the film falters in its pacing and character development. The movie progresses at a rapid clip, especially once the battles begin. While this prevents the film from becoming boring, it also keeps it from giving its supporting characters the depth needed for their scenes to carry proper dramatic weight. Deaths that should be difficult to watch are only so for their intense gore rather than their emotional impact. Moreover, the movie has a lackluster conclusion that clumsily attempts to tie together every narrative thread without the adequate screen time to earn such an ending.

Despite its subpar pacing and conclusion, “Outlaw King” is still a good telling of a true, celebrated Scottish story. Its dynamic performances and gore-filled battle sequences make it a great example of brutal historical filmmaking and a worthwhile watch. 

“Outlaw King” runs 122 minutes and is available to stream on Netflix.



More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 9/21/22 12:21am
Review: ‘See How They Run’ is a fun, quirky ode to the whodunnit

The prospect of writing a whodunnit is undeniably challenging – as Adrien Brody’s character says in “See How They Run,” “Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Audiences have been accustomed to solving the mystery due to both the formula’s consistency and the Internet’s role in facilitating fan theories, creating a generation of filmgoers looking out for every detail. However, despite this challenge, the whodunnit genre is seemingly making a comeback: 2019’s “Knives Out” was a major success with a sequel coming out later this year, and “See How They Run” debuted in theaters to positive reception this past Friday. “See How They Run” forges its own identity by simultaneously taking a comedic approach to the whodunnit through parody  and creating a loving tribute to the mystery subgenre.

A&E 9/21/22 12:20am
Review: BLACKPINK crafts an addicting and varied album with ‘BORN PINK’

On “BORN PINK,” BLACKPINK creates an addicting album that melds elements of pop, hip-hop and rock, leaving listeners wanting more. Drawn from a wide range of locations and forged through years of preparation in K-pop’s trainee system, BLACKPINK has found a unique sound that draws from both the strengths of its members Lisa, Jennie, Rosé and Jisoo, as well as the combined production savvy of their agency, YG Entertainment, and producer Teddy Park.

A&E 9/21/22 12:08am
​​Review: ‘The Hardest Part’ is the sound of love’s funeral

Like a prism turns light into color, Noah Cyrus turns pain into music. Emotion moves through Cyrus’s sound without resistance, leaving nothing lost in translation between her experience and her expression. While Cyrus cultivates a beautifully melancholic palette in “The Hardest Part,” I’m left equally impressed with her lyricism as I am with her musicality. “The Hardest Part” does more than provide listeners with ten pretty songs to cry to, it paints Cyrus’ world of doomed love, addiction and fragility with vivid colors and palpable grief.


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.