The American Civil War is coming to an end and the Liberty Boys are heading home to their farms and families. Now that the war with the bluecoats is over, they find that the railroad owners are trying to buy all the farms at ludicrous prices so they can build the railroad through the town. Frank and Jesse James tell the railroad bad guys their farm is not for sale, as do their friends and cousins the Younger brothers, along with the other town folk. When the railroad try to get tough, the boys decide they have had enough and form a gang to fight back, the James-Younger Gang. Rather than go in guns-a-blazing, they decide the best way to get at the railroad is to steal all its money, by robbing the banks that house it.
The head of the railroad, Thaddeus Rains (Harris Yulin), employs Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) and his detective agency to hunt down the gang, as catching them is proving to be a lot harder than expected. Having all been fighting in the war, the gang members are very proficient with guns and tactics to both win battles and avoid capture.
The debate over the legend of Jesse James and his gang still rages on today. Were they real or were they fiction? This film is yet another take on the legend. Bringing together a young cast of relative unknowns, Director Les Mayfield does quite a good job in resurrecting the western for moviegoers. It is impossible to not compare this to Young Guns and I donít think the makers are ashamed of that fact. Whereas Young Guns tackled the story of Billy the Kid, American Outlaws looks at Jesse James and his gang. The emphasis is also on how courteous and loved Jesse James was, even respected by the people he was robbing.
|"If weíre robbiní a bank, ainít no reason not to be civil about it!"|
Colin Farrell is very good as Jesse, ably supported by a fine ensemble of young actors in the roles of the gang. Kathy Bates is, well Kathy Bates really. I am yet to see her in a bad performance and she doesnít disappoint here either. Timothy Dalton is a little annoying with his Sean Connery accent but he is the bad guy here and is supposed to be hated, therefore he plays his role well.
This is not the best film around and, for me, it doesnít touch Young Guns - but it is enjoyable. It looks and sounds very good, with wonderful direction from Les Mayfield and a cast that is very well suited to their roles. The action sequences are very good and the noticeable aspect is that there isnít a lot of bloodshed. Definitely worth a rental when you canít decide what to get.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (not 1.85:1 as stated on the cover) and 16x9 enhanced, this film looks terrific. Picture is sharp throughout and colours are vibrant and true. Detail is very good and there are no major problems with artefacts. There is occasional grain and the odd lack of detail, but this is not too noticeable. Subtitles supplied are English for the hearing impaired and are reasonably true to the events and dialogue on screen. The layer change occurs at 50:54 mid-scene and is a little disruptive, although at least it is not during dialogue.
Audio supplied is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it's very good. Separation is used well generally, although the rear speakers do tend to dominate some scenes, especially during the opening battle where dialogue is a little hard to hear. Audio sync is never a problem and the subwoofer gets an aggressive workout during action sequences. The music score is very well suited and builds up the action well, using all the surrounds and subwoofer to do so. Overall this is a very good audio track that suits the film well.
A nice change of genre to what is currently on the market, this film is worth a viewing. It's not the best western ever made, but it does have a good cast with some excellent action sequences. The debate as to whether Jesse James and his gang ever lived is still raging, so if you watch this as fiction and try not to compare it to other Jesse James films you should enjoy it. It's very simular to Young Guns, so if you liked that you should enjoy this.