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The Baytown Outlaws (DVD)

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Actors: Paul Wesley, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Billy Bob Thornton / Directors: Barry Battles / Studio: Universal Pictures UK / Released: 26 Dec 2012 / Run Time: 99 minutes

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      16.01.2013 16:47
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      An underrated redneck action romp that could be a cult classic

      I came across this whilst browsing online and I'm glad I did. I hadn't heard of this before, which surprised me a little after seeing a few names in the cast. Despite not really knowing what to expect it was quite entertaining with some watchable characters, and whilst it won't win awards, you could definitely do worse if you're looking for some gun-toting with a difference.

      The Baytown Outlaws was directed by Barry Battles who has worked on a couple of things but nothing I really recognise. I would say this loosely falls in to an action-crime-comedy genre, midway between senseless fun & violence, and thought-provoking comedy.

      We're introduced to a group of red neck outlaws south of the Mason-Dixon line, the Oodie Brothers, McQueen, Lincoln & Brick. They're actually more like three southern hicks that have a dangerous, tough appearance and reputation, but are actually softer than they make out. The boys were trained well, by none other than Sheriff Henry Millard, so they've been bad boys and getting away with it for a while. Always on the lookout for a job, they can't resist when an attractive lady called Celeste cryptically offers them a job after finding out about a recent crime of theirs. The task? To rescue her godson for her Mafioso ex-hubby, Carlos. The reward? $25,000.

      The problem? Rob is actually a mentally disabled young man in a wheelchair and Carlos isn't keen to let him go so easily as he's got his eyes on the boy's trust fund that he's due to inherit on his upcoming 18th birthday. The brothers don't know much of the story when they take on the job so they blindly go on a search and rescue mission, only to be faced with a lot more resistance than they bargained for. Carlos has plenty of ammo to use against them, including Tomahawk-brandishing bikers, road pirates and dirty cops. The three brothers have guns, a few brain cells between them and not a lot else.

      As the film progresses, we see the brothers take Rob in to their care and try to deliver him back to Celeste, whilst fending off Carlos and co. I won't say much more on the premise except that it's a question of who has the biggest guns and who is prepared to fight the dirtiest. Along the way we meet some interesting characters and get to learn more about the brothers, especially through their relationship to Rob. Obviously surprised at first by the fact he's wheelchair bound, mentally disabled and unable to speak, the group surprise us. They're actually a lot 'softer' at heart, and even though they don't always seem to have many brain cells to rub together, they seem to take a shine to the kid and care about his safety, and not just because of the financial incentive! Seeing them take him under their wing, so to speak, was quite sweet and that made me realise that the acting wasn't bad either because I was able to empathise and feel something for the characters.

      The cast included Travis Fimmel (McQueen Oodie), Daniel Cudmore (Lincoln Oodie), Billy Bob Thornton (Carlos), Eva Longoria (Celeste), Clayne Crawford (Brick Oodie), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Rob) and Michael Rapaport (Lucky) amongst others. Clayne and Travis were probably my favourites of the bunch, being the two who took the lead the most and bonded with Rob. There weren't really any Oscar winning performances but on the whole it was a reasonable balance. Eva and Thornton were the biggest names featured and whilst they didn't have particularly large roles, they nonetheless added some credibility to the flick and a bit of familiarity amidst a cast I didn't recognise many other people from. Characters were developed to the extent that they were watchable, but aside from the two Oodie brothers I mentioned, the others were a little bland. I can, however, see why. The film was designed as being one to give the audience action and light-heartedness without bogging it down with too much intellect, depth or complexity. At the same time, however, it wasn't completely mindless, so it managed to keep me engaged.

      A short snippet review from Film4 FrightFest describes this as "A riot of slick and sick Tarantino-style escapism". I would agree in part, at least because it does have the feel of a director with more experience and a bit of a Grindhouse sense about it; it seemed well crafted and rounded, with a feel and style to it of its own that made the movie more memorable after watching. The scenes were well produced in a down-to-earth way without over the top effects or constant action that would have turned it in to a run of the mill mindless rampage. Whilst the music didn't stick with me after the film, at the time it created the atmosphere and built the film up to keep a good pace. There was also a sense of curiosity that was generated when we wonder how things will turn out, not just for the kid but for the brothers too, so I was keen to keep watching it until the end.

      Overall I would say this film is sadly quite unknown and underrated. Granted, it won't win awards, but it was enjoyable and balanced well between action, being emotive, being comical and being light-heartedly entertaining in an easy-to-watch kind of way. I therefore would recommend this if you're feeling in the mood for some redneck, gun-toting fun with a difference.

      DVD released 2012, running time 99 minutes, rated Certificate 15
      Selling on Amazon for £8.99

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