After the bloody and successful robbery of the bank of Cuchillo in New Mexico, Henry’s gang fled the scene and cautiously headed to the borders for a safe split of the loots. On their trail is Josiah, a competent bounty hunter, who with the aid of a few men, is trying to arrest them and collect the bounty. The night falls, and a seemingly isolated farmhouse looks like the best hideout for the gang to spend the night and carry on fresh in the morning. Unfortunately, there lives the family of pastor George Tildon, a religious man who lives by the word of God. The night seems to be very long and the tension keeps building, but it will be the morning sun that will shed light on hidden secrets and the darkness within them all.
To say Outlaws and Angels was one of the stranger movies I’ve seen lately would be a crass understatement. But now is strangeness alone not a measure for the quality of a movie, so let’s see what made OaA so strange and if it’s any good. Judging by IMDb’s meagre 5.4 rating (but honestly, who does that?) it’s supposedly a crappy little flick. On the other hand I’m hearing OaA faired quite well at the Sundance festival, so yes the camps are well established and poor little wannabe movie reviewer me’s gotta sort it out.
We do that bestest by just looking at the usual categories movies are judged by:
Screenplay: Interesting idea of bringing ultra-realism of life at the Western frontier of the 1880s to the screen. In so far this movie does almost work like a documentary. But just almost. Anyway, OaA does avoid tripping into the kitschy, quasi romantic folklore of many other movies in that genre. But it needs to be said what got me even more was the portrayal of the contemporaries of the time period. We’re shown a variety of bad people all around. Even the good guys at first sight turn out to be just assholes in the end.
Now, yes, we all know life wasn’t a birhday party back then and people lived under terrible conditions, starvation and famine was not unheard of. So of course many of them gave in to the promise of a big buck and a better life. And let’s not forget most of them were poorly educated, rather stupid and didn’t have high ethic standards to start with. In so far I loved OaA for its shameless observation of the characters’ most dark secrets and character flaws.
The dialogues felt pretty real, as far as we can say from our view of 150 years later but, and this is a BIG BUT, why did the director need to show us all that many useless dialogue? Not saying that he’s supposed to do it in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight style. Because Tarantino ain’t very realistic and his characters are much too witty and well-spoken for their supposed environment and time period. Yes, I dare criticing the great Tarantino. His movies are very flawed. It just so happens they are tremendously entertaining as well. An attribute I can’t quite attach to OaA.
So we established how OaA is a movie about unsophisticated, stupid as posts folks. That ain’t a problem in the first place, movies need those characters too. But why do we – educated and clever modern audiences – have to listen to all their meaningless babble? For two hours??? I’m not saying, like some people did on IMDb boards, the director should have cut away 120 minutes (the total runtime is 119 minutes) of the movie, but it could and should have lost like half an hour. And OaA would’ve benefitted a great deal from that tight editing. It’s not a complicated story, and it’s not about complicated characters, it’s in fact just a dirty little story about dirty little people. So why blow it out of proportion?
You know what also was a dirty little story about dirty little people living in horrible times? The Homesman with Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones. And that one was done properly, and great entertainment.
The acting: It was all around great I gotta say. Particularly the almost forgotten Teri Polo acted her heart out and delivered an Oscar worthy performance. Also very good: Francesca Eastwood (yes, granddaughter of that other western hero) as “the one that got away”. A bit disappointed was I by Luke Wilson, who didn’t seem to have poured his heartblood into his role as the bounty hunter.
Camera and Lights: Very great for such a low budget movie. The use of good oldfashioned 35 mm film stock lends a certain classic atmosphere to OaA as well.
Direction: Writer/Director JT Mollner had a unique vision of OaA and he consequently saw it through. But unfortunately he ended up being a bit too much in love with his own work so he consequently fucked it up in the cutting room. Guess I’ve mentioned it before, OaA needed a much tighter and consequent editing. This also becomes evident by the endless sequence of ending scenes where he unnecessarily tries to tie up every little loose end of the story. It was 3 or 4 times we expected to see the final fade-to-black and roll of the end credits … but noooo, wait, there is more … and here is another little tidbit for all you OCD sufferers out there.
Terrible shit: After the end credits have rolled we are shown one of the gangsters singing a happy song … serious? Come on!!!
Another big point of criticism, mostly by the overly concerned politically correct audiences, was the portrayal of violence and brutality throughout the movie. Well, I didn’t get that point, not at all. Overall bodycount in OaA was less than 20 people, which is far far below the modern H-wood blockbuster, where we happily witness the destruction of whole cities, even planets. So what’s the problem of our SJW audience? Maybe that we got to know all the corpses before they were deaded? A bit like we don’t have a problem eating a chicken every now and then, but as soon as we know its name and played with it for a couple minutes we can’t bring it over our hearts to butcher and grill that delicious little thing.
Don’t you deem it terrible that people in the last 40 years have lost the ability to differentiate, to view stuff from all perspectives, but are so terribly one-sided in all their shitty bad judgements? A movie showing evil characters doing evil things doesn’t necessarily make the movie bad as well. Of course, OaA was a rather derailed shitty movie … but not because of showing gratitious violence!
Silly people, where’s your sense of objectivity?
Hey, without the eventual outburst of violence we’d all be long sedated by OaA’s ultra slow pacing. You thought Once upon a Time in the West or Breaking Bad were slow? You ain’t seen nothing yet. 😉 These movie and TV series are proof that slow doesn’t necessarily equal boring. An old wisdom JT Mollner’s still gotta learn.
CONCLUSION: Outlaws and Angels is a strange, a very strange movie. It plays like a family crisis soapie with a western movie background This movie touches uncomfortable topics like cowardice, greed, religious hypocrisy, sex, child abuse, rebellion against elders, and the weakness and corruptness of the human spirit … and throws brutal bank robbers in the mix.
What could have made OaA a fantastic movie already failed at the first hurdle, its own righteousness.
THE RATHER VERY MISLEADING TRAILER:
WATCH IT? Yes and no. Honestly, don’t watch OaA if you’re a fan of the western movie genre, quick pacing, clever one-liners and epic shootouts. And also don’t watch it if you’re a fan of big drama.
Never even come close to OaA if you’re a glowing American patriot neither. The obviously pretty normal Americans we’re shown here will wreck all your illusions about the glorious past and “how the west was won” and all that.
Go, watch it if you’ve a morbid interest in trainwrecks, failed experiments, great acting and fiction trying to come across as anthropology.
WHAT THE PROFESSIONALS THINK:
Whoa! Weirdly there isn’t one single review to be found on YouTube. It’s all just either trailer reactions or promo material. Don’t need that shit, so sorry, Orca’s insignificant review (and some not very trustworthy stuff on IMDb) is all you get right now.
Let’s check that fresh, multivoiced tomatometer of many opinions: