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Outlaw King

As Netflix continues to expand its brand more profoundly with each passing year, the streaming service is looking to have a huge impact on this year’s award-season landscape.From the Coen Brothers (THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS), to Sandra Bullock (BIRD BOX), to the buzzy ROMA (directed by Alfonso Cuaron), there are big names that are foregoing the typical path to an Academy Award, and giving audiences the opportunity to see lauded films from the comfort of their own home immediately upon their release. Before any of the aforementioned projects debut, the period drama OUTLAW KING looked to be the first to toss its name into the Oscar mix. 

OUTLAW KING features Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, the Scottish king who looked to rid his land of the treacherous English in the late 1400’s. Despite an initial inability to amass the type of army that would be needed to overthrow the reigning king, he is fueled by a love for his land and its people. Constantly outnumbered and working with the knowledge that his wife and child are in peril, he forges on, slowly building followers as he goes. Undeterred by savage sneak attacks and a lack of soldiers and supplies, he believes that he and his people will find a way to prevail.

The film, which debuted on Netflix in November, is directed and co-written by David Mackenzie, who last paired with Pine in the thrilling HELL OR HIGH WATER. The modern western was an intense, intelligent and sublimely acted masterpiece that ranked amongst the best films of 2016. Building off of the success of that production, there was every reason to have incredibly high hopes for OUTLAW KING. 

Pine, as King Robert, proves once again that he is a leading man that perhaps doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. He projects a quiet fierceness and avoids the grandstanding you typically see in ventures such as these. Sympathetic, yet more than willing to slay those who stand in his way, he is a tender soul with cold-blooded tendencies.

The visuals in OUTLAW KING are stunning. Watching the sprawling scenery in high definition is undeniably awe-inspiring, and it is apparent that Mackenzie and crew went to great lengths to deliver a product that is meticulous in virtually every conceivable way. Despite Pine’s excellent turn, and the beauty the film bestows upon its audience, in the end, it is largely forgettable. In a way, this is no fault of the cast and crew. Had this movie been made 10 years ago, it would have seemed far more impressive. Paired with BRAVEHEART (whose character William Wallace is referenced multiple times throughout) it would have been seen as a period drama with plenty of highs, and very few lows. Unfortunately, we now live in an era where GAME OF THRONES has entered the entertainment landscape, and whether you are a fan of the series or not, you are familiar with its visuals and structure. Because of its massive success, and the fact that every episode is wholly cinematic in nature, it overshadows any of its counterparts and competitors. 

Try as I might to watch OUTLAW KING on its own accord, I couldn’t help but think of THRONES during every single scene. From its merciless violence to its obligatory sex scene, it played out like an average episode of the HBO series. The battle sequences in KING are bombastic, and there is plenty of going on. Skulls are smashed, throats are pierced, and fleshed is carved. Swords cause blood to constantly spurt over hero and villain alike, and neither horse nor human are safe once the fighting commences. And, despite the grand scale of these scenes, once again, they fail to project any type of feeling of originality. This isn’t a condemnation on the abilities of Mackenzie as a filmmaker, but rather, it serves as an observation on the current state of films such as these. With the ingenuity that THRONES bestows on the small screen on a weekly basis, it seems increasingly impossible for a product such as OUTLAW KING to emerge as anything other than a forgettable footnote in the annals of Netflix history. 

Outlaw King: GRADE C-

RATED: R

RUN TIME: 2h 1min

GENRE:  Period Piece, Action & Adventure

STARRING:  Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh

DIRECTORs: David Mackenzie

Writers: David Mackenzie, Bathsheba Doran, Mark Bomback, David Harrower, James MacInnes

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.