Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cow Plop: "American Outlaws" (2001)

"American Outlaws" is cinematic proof that the American public will watch just about anything, even a film that makes "Young Guns" look like "The Searchers."

Colin Farrell is Jesse James and Gabriel Macht plays Frank, his brother. After the film opens with perhaps the most fun ever had at a Civil War battle, the Jameses and Youngers head home to Missouri.

There, evil railroad executives have moved into the state in record time and are trying to buy everyone's land to build a railroad. Farms are burned, people killed, and the Youngers and Jameses have had it. After Ma James (Kathy Bates, God rest the soul of her career) is killed in an attack, the guys decide to stick it to the man by robbing banks where the railroad company does business. The rest of the film is a series of explosions as the gang robs, Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) tries to track James down, and the boys escape from one pickle to another.

This film is stupid. So stupid. First of all, all the characters are straight out of a screenplay seminar: Jesse the dashing hero, Zee (Ali Larter) his love interest, Frank the smart one, Cole Younger (Scott Caan) the hothead, Bob Younger (Will McCormack) the "funny" one, Jim Younger (Gregory Smith) the boy who you know will die, Tom (Nathaniel Arcand) the politically correct Native American Indigenous People Indian Scout guy whose sole function here is to add some color to the cast of white guys, Rains (Harris Yulin) and Parker (Terry O'Quinn) are the villains, Ma James is the religious nut who has no problem with guns and killin', and Pinkerton, who enjoys the chase of James more than the capture.

All the young men wear cool clothes and brandish magical pistols that seem to reload themselves. Thank goodness everyone over thirty five is an idiot, so as these rascally killers can go John Woo/Chow Yun Fat all over their gold filled rumps and do serious damage without ever killing an innocent bystander. Electric guitar riffs fill the soundtrack, and the film goes through all its preordained set pieces where the outcome has already been determined yet the film makers treat them as if they invented the genre.

If you need to see cute guys without their shirts on, read Tiger Beat or watch a Backstreet Boys video. If you need to see a decent western, watch anything but this. The entire cast and crew should be ashamed of themselves for coming up with this and shooting it. Did we learn nothing from "The Brady Bunch," when Bobby worshiped Jesse James until Mike brought home the son of one of the outlaw's victims? Why is that thirty year old sitcom more responsible than this dung?

Wanna know the kicker to this whole migraine of a movie? Ma James is killed, prompting the boys to take revenge on the railroad. In real life, she outlived Jesse by almost forty years. Avoid "American Outlaws" like the popular girl at the whorehouse. (*) out of five stars.