American Outlaws on DVD
Yet another take on the legend of Jesse James is brought to us care of
The funny thing about Westerns, is that they seem to be either really
good or really bad. There isn't much of a happy medium.
Unfortunately, American Outlaws falls into the "really bad" category.
It's basically every other Western thrown together into one, without creativity
or entertainment value.
It follows the adventures of Jesse James (Colin Farrell) and his gang
of thugs as they rob banks and have a good time, kind of a "Bonnie and
Clyde of the old West." It seems that a corrupt railroad baron wants to
build the rail across Jesse's property, and is willing to do whatever
it takes to get it done. So Jesse bands together with his brother and
friends to fight the evil tycoon.
They pull a series of bank robberies, but only steal money that they
know belongs to the railroad. They become famous, and are soon being stalked
by Detective Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton).
One of the problems with the movie is that it has no concept of time.
One minute they're robbing a bank, and the next minute it's eight months
later. But of course, there's no way to tell there's been a jump in time
except to listen closely to the dialogue.
But of course, the main problem is that it just isn't very good. I like
Westerns, and when done properly, they can be great. American Outlaws
tries to be hip, rather than entertaining. Unfortunately, it's under the
impression that casting young people who can't act will automatically
make it hip. Aside from Colin Farrell and the veterans, most of the cast
is pretty bad. Scott Caan, Ali Larter, Gabriel Macht, Gregory Smith and
Will McCormack are all completely miscast, and damage the film.
To make matters worse, the climax couldn't possibly be any more clichéd
if it tried. It involves a train, the good guy, and the bad guy. You can
probably piece together the rest for yourself.
If you have a hankerin' for some Western watchin', do yourself a favor
and watch one of the classics, many of which we review elsewhere in our
The DVD, oddly enough, is better than probably 80% of those released
by Warner Bros. If every Warners DVD got this kind of treatment, it would
be a more wonderful world.
For starters, this is one of the few Warner titles so far to feature
a DTS audio track. It's nice to see, but it would have been nicer to see
on a better movie. Aside from DTS, there is also the usual Dolby Digital
5.1. The sound is great, and it really comes out in certain scenes: the
climax for instance, as bad as it is, sounds really good.
The picture quality is equally fantastic. It's presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic
widescreen (compatible with 16x9 TV's) and looks much better than a lot
of DVD movies coming out these days, and definitely better than we're
used to from many of Warner's DVD titles.
Extras include a commentary (which is actually quite good - a hundred
times better than the movie) with director Les Mayfield, co-writer John
Rogers and editor Michael Tronick. There are three behind-the-scenes vignettes,
entitled "The Making of American Outlaws," "Creating the Old West," and
"How To Be an Outlaw." They're short, and are typical behind-the-scenes
pieces, but they do manage to offer some insight into how the film was
Not why it was made, unfortunately...
Lesser extras include two deleted scenes, storyboards, production stills,
a publicity gallery, artwork, and the trailer.
Warner made a great disc. IF only they'd make DVD's that are this good
for movies that actually deserve it.
American Outlaws, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
94 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Starring Colin Farrell, Scott Caan, Ali Larter, Kathy Bates and Timothy
Produced by James G. Robinson, Screenplay by Roderick Taylor and John
Directed by Les Mayfield
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