Outlaws And Angels Review

Matt Donato

Reviewed by:
On July 12, 2016
Last modified:July 12, 2016


Outlaws And Angels is a slog of a two-hour Western thanks to elongated shots that carry on in the name of artistic value far after scenes expire.

Outlaws And Angels Review


Like a heavy Southern drawl that lazily meanders through conversation, Outlaws And Angels drags its scenes far longer than contextually necessary. Imagine a Southerner leaking “Hooowwwwdddyyy folkssssss!” like a deflating balloon instead of clear, concise dictation (“Howdy!” and done). Characters just glare at the screen as director JT Mollner has a field-day with zoom ins and outs that turn his dried-out, rawhide script into a crackly piece of fragile leather. Overindulgence mars this grim, rough-and-tumble Western splatterfest, which is comparable to a more interesting (but still tiresome) take take on Jane Got A Gun (with a darker, strangely jovial mean streak). Death certainly was a byproduct of the Old West, but could people really be so terse about it all?

Mollner’s tale of frontier justice follows three robbers who interrupt a family’s dinner and demand safe haven for the night. Led by a ruthless drifter named Henry (Chad Michael Murray), the criminals begin eating the Tildon’s food and eyeing-up their daughters. Henry takes a particular shining to the 15-year-old Florence Tildon (Francesca Eastwood), who curiously interrogates her new guests. As the night progresses, lines between good and evil are blurred by a family with secrets and varmints with a knack for exposing bullshit. Are there any “good men” left in the world? Hell, even a man of integrity like the bounty-hunting Josiah (Luke Wilson) can succumb to the lawless treasures the West provides…

It’s just a shame those treasures come in the form of dusty, weirdly “comical” scenes of boundary-defiant debauchery – none of which are trimmed of their chewy fat. You’ll hear such colloquial gems as “You’re slower than molasses in January!” and “You just as fine as creamed gravy,” while bad men are threatened with implications of sodomy. One minute George Tildon (Ben Browder) is “bocking” in a chicken’s face, the next he’s being accused of incest and abortions – all while Little Joe (Keith Loneker) giggles in the corner like a hulking Porky Pig. Imagine a Tarantino western that sloppily balances syrupy outbursts of gruesome death with an almost Looney Tunes sense of personality – without any whip-cracking wit or wild anecdotes.

For a film that analyzes the dichotomy between “good” and “evil,” Mollner’s vision is dry, messy and without grandiose meaning. As Luke Wilson’s character tails Henry’s gang, we hear his continual narration as he wrestles with inner demons. “The innocence or the darkness, which are we?” he rambles on. Sounds enlightened, right? If we haven’t seen westerns that reduce family folk to rapists, murderers and sickos, it all might be. But as it stands, Outlaws And Angels doesn’t do any great justices by flipping expected character constructs on their head – good is bad, but bad is good (?!) – and only becomes more laborious as Mollner’s shots go on, and on, and on…

Making matters worse, I rather liked Francesca Eastwood as a young “Calamity Jane” cowgirl who punishes every form of wickedness. The 23-year-old-playing-a-15-year-old makes good use of her pouty, hypnotizing gaze to lull both family and criminals into a false sense of understanding (which are Mollner’s only long-shots worth any substance). Chad Michael Murray mumbles his way through a dastardly bout of wayward survival, but most other characters are zany over-characterizations to a tonally jarring effect. Teri Polo’s bible-thumping mother whose screech could break a window, Little Joe’s daffy, witless commentary, and Charlotte Tildon’s (Madisen Beaty) aggressively bitchy sister arc all make us feel like we’re in a much different film than the blood-soaked revenge arc that unfolds.

Mollner’s assessment of death is one that attempts to cut through grit and grime, but only works to juxtapose violence and gallows humor without definition. As Florence bashes someone’s face in with the butt-end of a rifle, lively saloon piano music paints anger in a bright, outgoing light – and this happens many times. Seriousness is undercut by the West’s bleak sense of humor, but Mollner’s obsession with elongating camera-pans gun down momentum just when characters appear to be striking a period-perfect charm. This movie is gory, vicious and unforgiving – yet, what’s it all for?

All Westerns don’t have to be two-hour epics. If your story permits a rip-roaring adventure that never ends, then there’s no issue. But Outlaws And Angels could have been wrapped up in an swift 90 minutes, and that’s just by trimming down Mollner’s fixated camera on the same character for an eternity of silence. Then you smooth out all the contrived, predictable “twists,” and you’re down to about 80 minutes. That’s the movie people want – a focused, gun-slinging foray into Old West savagery. Know your story, tell it, and get out. Never overstay your welcome…

Outlaws And Angels Review

Outlaws And Angels is a slog of a two-hour Western thanks to elongated shots that carry on in the name of artistic value far after scenes expire.