Retro Review: American Outlaws

“American Outlaws is filled with action, love, and humor. It is just the Jesse James version of “Young Guns”.

“American Outlaws” chronicles the legend of Jesse James (Colin Farrell). Jesse comes home from the Civil War with his brother Frank (Gabriel Macht) and their cousins Cole Younger (Scott Caan) and Bob Younger (Will McCormack).

The James and Youngers soon realize Liberty, Missouri isn’t the little innocent town it was when they all went off to fight the war.

The railroad, lead by fierce businessman Thaddeus Rains (Harris Yulin), has moved in and has tried to buy up all the farms in county. To assist Rains on his quest is the infamous Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) and the ruthless Rollin Parker (Terry O’Quinn).

When Jesse and Frank gather all the towns people together Cole looses his temper and puts them all in danger. This leads to a daring rescue of Cole and the eventual torching of farmer’s homes by Rollin Parker.

Eventually Jesse and Frank have to team up with their cousins and declare war on the railroad in hopes of stopping the railroad from destroying more innocent farmers. Does he succeed in stopping the railroad?

It has been a long time since I have seen a western film this enjoyable. It didn’t need to sink into the dark, bloody western-styles of the 1980’s and 90’s to tell this story. It is delivered with panache and quick-witted humor. You really connect with these characters and their struggle. The humor also plays a huge role in the relationship between the audience and the characters.

My favorite character in the film was Frank James (Gabriel Macht). Macht is a relative newcomer to films and really does a great job supporting Colin Farrell during his first lead-role in a major motion picture release. Sure Farrell was in “Tigerland” but it wasn’t very well received and that was a real shame. Macht is very laid back and very comfortable as the poetic and intelligent older brother. He is a great find.

I also really enjoyed the beautiful Ali Larter. She made her film debut dressed in nothing but a whipped cream bikini. In this film she’s the zesty daughter of Ronny Cox’s doctor. She also has dynamite chemistry with Colin Farrell.

The only flaw I could see was with some of the timing in the film. For one, the film is quite short at a running time of between 96 and 105 minutes. I wanted more and the film doesn’t end with summary paragraphs on what happened to the gang later on. I love that aspect of true stories. If this film is successful maybe we will see what really did happen to Jesse in a sequel.

It is unavoidable that this film will be compared to the 1988 smash “Young Guns”. In my honest opinion, I think it’s better.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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