American Outlaws (2001)

Since I asked for requests for movies to review, I feared this moment. That moment is the time when a friend would ask me to review a movie that they love and then I watch it to find it completely mediocre. Oh well, my integrity is worth too much to hold back. Today’s movie review is of the movie American Outlaws, starring Colin Farrell, Scott Caan, Ali Larter, Kathy Bates, and Timothy Dalton.

This movie starts with the James Brothers, Frank (Gabriel Macht) and Jesse (Colin Farrell), entrenched in the Civil War with Cole Younger (Scott Caan) and others. Well they have their backs against the wall but, worry not, Jesse James is a super hero. With his expert marksman brother Frank taking out people, Jesse rides around like a madman cycling through the 6 revolvers he has strapped to him and just takes out a giant portion of the North with their rag-tag gang of about 6 dudes. Then they find out that General Lee has surrendered at Appomattox and the war is over. Relieved, they go back home to their ranch. But alas, all is not well on the home front. The corrupt railroad people along with Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) are trying to force their people off their land, but the James Brothers will have none of it and run the people off. Cole was not so lucky, killing 2 deputies and getting arrested. But SuperJesse and his untouchable gang rescue him. The railroad retaliates by blowing up their houses and killing Momma James (Kathy Bates). The James’ and the Youngers form a gang and rob all the banks holding the railroad’s money. Then other stuff happens. The end.

Now, I like a good western. I can even tolerate a chick-flick if it’s good enough. But apparently the odd combination of the two doesn’t strike me very well, and that’s what this movie went with. It has all the classic western moments, then makes them a little silly and a lot over-the-top, and throws a love story with Ali Larter in there. An action movie allows for a certain degree of weak story and impossible situations for their hero, but this movie takes it a little too far. Take, for instance, when about 50 guys have the gang trapped in a bank, Jesse gets his 2 pals behind a table, jumps up with his dual six-shooters, rolls over a table while firing and seemingly not missing once, then diving through glass, leaving only about 3 enemies standing, seemingly wondering to themselves “How the hell did that just happen?” Then Jesse jumps through a window, grabs dynamite from his horse’s saddle, dives back in, and then proceeds to blow his way through the walls of the buildings and very quickly placing the dynamite so that a bunch of overly lucky explosions take out almost all of the enemy and they ride out of town, unscathed but for the unimportant character that gets shot on the way out.

And now for a couple of specific problems. I never felt the need to see Colin Farrell and Scott Caan mud wrestle. I’m not sure that any proposal to a woman you want to marry should first make her depressed because you’re acting like you’ve fallen in love with someone else but then “SURPRISE! It was you I was talking about! Thank God I threw that out there before you opened your veins, right?” Also, Jesse is such the Superman that they forgot by the time he went shirtless swimming with Ali Larter (him shirtless, not her) that he should probably have a scar on his shoulder from when he was almost mortally wounded earlier in the movie.

Basically, this movie is not for me. I like a good western, one that is gritty and awesome and realistic. Take a look at your Tombstones or your True Gritses. And if you’re so desperate for it to be all about Jesse James, you could probably see the movie that this movie tried to swagger jack (Young Guns) or a movie better than both of those, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. If you’d rather see Superman in the west with a touch of chick-flick, this is your movie. But it’s not mine. All in all, I give it a total and complete “meh” out of 2.