Movie Review: "The Baytown Outlaws"
Rating: R (strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexual content, drug content)
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: December 26, 2012
Directed by: Barry Battles
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
The antihero is a movie character concept which has changed significantly over the years. The three antiheroes at the center of "The Baytown Outlaws" start off as villains and slowly become the antiheros of the film, a nice twist in a film that is full of twists and surprises.
The Oodie brothers are a trio of Alabama boys who wear their redneck status as a badge of honor. Brick (Clayne Crawford) is the de facto leader, always bickering with McQueen (Travis Fame), the headstrong youngest of the brood. Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore) is the tallest, most imposing of the brothers, but he was rendered mute by an accident several years before. Brick and McQueen talk enough to more than make up for Lincoln's silence, although a lot of that talking comes in the form of petty fighting.
The local lawman, Sherriff Millard (Andre Braugher) has ties to the brothers, but he tries to keep them under wraps. This becomes harder to accomplish because they badly botch a job, which serves as the bloody, violent start of the film. The fiasco draws the attention of ATF Agent Reese (Paul Wesley), so they try to lay low for awhile. In doing so, they have a hard time making ends meet, which is why the arrival of Celeste (Eva Longoria) with a job offer comes at a very good time. Celeste wants the boys to travel to Texas, where her diabolical ex, Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton), has her godson Rob (Thomas Brodie Sangster) held captive. They must break into Carlos's house, grab Rob and return to Alabama, where Celeste will be waiting with a handsome payoff.
Of course, if everything went that easily, there would be no real plot to the movie. Things go horribly awry, because Carlos is a sociopath who has several local gangs on speed dial, ready to kill the Oodies. Celeste also forgot to mention that Rob is mentally and physically challenged, which complicates the planned getaway even further. The bulk of the film is spent watching the brothers try to dodge the various gangs Carlos sends after them, although the audience has to wonder if they won't kill each other first before one of the gangs gets a chance.
The film is fairly unapologetic about the amount of blood and violence in the film, which makes it similar to a Quentin Tarantino film. In fact, co-screenwriters Barry Battles and Griffin Hood pretty much pay homage to Tarantino's brand of bloody, almost cartoonish violence throughout the film. A scene where Carlos sends a gang of scantily-clad female mercenaries to kill the Oodies feels a lot like the Crazy 88 gang in "Kill Bill." Somehow, Battles, who also serves as director here, is able to make the violence fun without letting the movie devolve into parody. "The Baytown Outlaws" marks his directorial debut and clearly shows that he has the talent to one day be in the upper echelon where Tarantino is.
Although he is only in a handful of scenes, Thornton nearly steals the film as Carlos, the ruthless crime boss who loves the sound of his own voice. He is very verbose in his scenes, waxing poetic about crime, death, and a whole host of other topics. Thornton is clearly a fantastic actor, having been nominated for many major acting awards in the past. He makes it all look so effortless that it is easy to forget just how talented he is. With "The Baytown Outlaws," the audience is reminded of this, and it may even gain a new appreciation for him.
By the end of the film, Battles and Hood turn the Oodies from a potty-mouthed band of miscreants into conscientious human beings. It is a welcome development because the brothers were not very likable at the start of the film. The good news is that, although they become likable and morph into antiheroes, they don't lose their edge or love of raw violence. In this way, "The Baytown Outlaws" is very similar to "The Boondock Saints," which also portrays a group of mayhem-causing men as people who should be loved and revered. It is way too early to tell if this film will gain the same cult classic status as "The Boondock Saints," but there is a good chance that it is headed in that direction. Since the film leaves the door open for one or more sequels, viewers will have more chances to make the Oodies into the cult antiheros they deserve to be.