Outlaw King 2018 ***

 

pine_outlaw_kingAfter the high of Hell or High Water, the reteaming of star Chris Pine and director David Mackenzie promised much, but critical derision after festival screenings at Toronto knocked the wind out of its sails and it’s appearance on Netflix went largely unheralded. Whatever its issues, it’s a straight-up historical epic with lots of action and a different POV on similar events to Braveheart. US reviewers who saw Outlaw King as a sequel to Mel Gibson’s film should take a history lesson; William Wallace is seen here only as a corpse, and the focus is positively on Robert the Bruce, who Gibson’s film relegates to a minor role. As played by Pine, Robert the Bruce is determined but politically naïve, and it takes a series of defeats and setbacks before Bruce successfully turns the tide. Some groan-worthy dialogue mars the grand scale of the action, and the casting on non-Scots in all the central roles creates a feeling on unreality. But the big battle scenes are rousing, and Outlaw King’s larger-than-life heroics, like the enormous catapult seen in the opening moments, deserve to be more widely seen.

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80190859?source=35

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Hell or High Water 2016 ****

hell-or-high-waterScottish director David Mackenzie has made his fair share of head-scratchers, from his poor concert rom-com  You Instead to his baffling sci-fi opus Perfect Sense. The further he gets from home, the better his films get, and his follow-up to Starred Up is his best to date. Jeff Bridges plays Marcus, the grizzled Texas Ranger on the trail of two bank-robbers Tanner and Toby (Ben Foster, Chris Pine), brothers who have reluctantly decided to operate on the wrong side of the law since their mother passed away. Taylor Sheridan’s script is peppered with memorable scenes and characters, including a couple of pithy waitresses, and neat reversals of expectations. And when the finale comes, it’s got the drive and violent verve of the best dime-store novels. Dismissed by some as a Coen Brother knock-off, Hell or High Water is an intense, thoughtful thriller with a unique atmosphere of its own.