I only gave this a chance because I knew Zoe Bell was in it somewhere and I thought it starred Billy Bob Thornton. Turns out both are pretty small parts. And the opening has alot of signs that this is one of these post-GRINDHOUSE prefab exploitation movies that I can’t stand. It uses that old stylistic device that has pretty much never been used in a cool way, the freeze-frame-turns-into-shitty-Photoshop-tracing-that’s-supposed-to-look-like-a-comic-book-panel. The titlated outlaws are three crazy gunhappy berserker redneck brothers, the unshaven type with greasy hair and fetishistically dirty tank tops, ugly tattoos, biker jewelry, of course a rebel flag on one of them. #1, I don’t understand why these type of characters are so appealing to people who make movies like this, and #2 are we at a point where SMOKIN’ ACES is actually an influential film? Holy shit. I thought I was the only one who liked some parts of that.
But you know what? This BAYTOWN OUTLAWS isn’t bad. It won me over.
In the opening scene the three Oodie brothers Brick (Clayne Crawford), McQueen (Travis Fimmel) and Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore – Colossus from the X-MEN pictures) invade a house and gleefully massacre a bunch of people before figuring out they’re at the wrong address. They might be okay though because their boss (Andre Braugher) is the sheriff, he sends them to murder criminals all the time, so he has some experience in cover ups.
One of the many witnesses to the massacre was Celeste (Eva Longoria), who feels that their special skills of being crazy murderers who don’t get caught could be used to help her rescue her godson Rob (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) from Carlos (Thornton), the asshole dad who kidnapped him to try to get to his inheritance when he turns 18. So she offers the brothers a bunch of money, and they take it.
I started to warm up to the movie around the time it slowed down to have the brothers driving to their destination, McQueen asking Brick a million questions about the ins and outs of the mission, and whining “You know I’m inquisitive!” when Brick loses patience. Lincoln isn’t involved in conversations like this because he’s mute. He wears a Speak ‘n Spell around his neck at all times but hardly ever uses it. He’s a quiet, non-gentle giant, and the best character in the movie. Kinda reminds me of Tiny in the Rob Zombie movies even though he’s not deformed like that.
So they blow up Carlos’s house and take the kid, but Carlos survives, dusts himself off and starts sending various gimmicky killers after them. It’s a cartoonish version of that modern western thing, they’re outlaws riding their horses down the trail, getting attacked by Indians. In fact that becomes literal at one point, Carlos sends a gang of Native American bikers who are first seen cutting a souvenir ear off of a dead cop. They also try to scalp one of the brothers. So… not one of the more enlightened portrayals.
The rendezvous point is at three condemned buildings shaped like teepees, by the way. So the filmatists were pretty aware of this being like a western, and wanted us to be too. But that’s fine. We’re all on the same page.
Zoe Bell plays the leader of a gang of biker prostitutes who seduce the boys and then try to kill them. She’s got cleavage and a leather corset, which is a little different from what she usually gets to do. But of course she’s there for a fight scene. She doesn’t last long but at least you’ll notice she’s in the movie, it’s not another GAMER situation.
There’s also a black gang sent after them, and these guys live a full on ROAD WARRIOR lifestyle with a post-apocalyptic style battle truck.
I didn’t mention that this Rob kid who they’re all fighting over, the human mcmuffin, turns out to be mute and in a wheelchair. For a second it’s “oh shit, this kid is gonna be harder to transport than we were told” but they don’t stop to fret about it. Brodie-Sangster is completely convincing in the role. He’s timid and confused but you can tell sometimes that he’s aware of things and trying to communicate. His vulnerability cuts through the brothers’ layer of asshole and it’s pretty sweet the way they bond with him and try to make him feel good about himself. It turns out there’s a backstory to why Brick sympathizes with the kid, but it’s not even necessary.
To signify that Rob is part of the family they give him face paint that they say is the same as Lincoln wore when he used to be a wrestler. A gesture of brotherhood combined with a pro-wrestling tradition – that hits my sweet spot.
Thornton’s not in it that much, but it doesn’t really matter. He does get to do his thing as a funny asshole, just yelling at everybody, being sarcastic, oozing contempt for anyone and everything, including his right hand man and for some reason the U.S. Postal Service. I don’t know why but it’s just always a delight to watch Billy Bob be an asshole. It could easily be somebody else in the role and it would just be unpleasant to watch, but with Billy Bob it’s hilarious. Even that interview he did where he was actually being a real life asshole was pretty damn funny. I hope he starts doing more movies again.
Braugher is also great, as always. He’s a more complex character because he’s pretty sleazy and cold-blooded but you get the sense that he’s really doing what he thinks is for the greater good. I like his interactions with Reese (Paul Wesley), the ATF agent who’s sniffing around. Millard has to play dumb the whole time and Reese knows what he’s doing but sarcastically plays along. I like when he sees a relevant police sketch in the newspaper and he says, “This is the first time evidence has literally been brought to my front door.”
It’s kinda weird how you can have a character like this, have them wear a Confederate flag for the whole movie but as long as they never say the n-word or anything we can accept them as a nice guy. Even though we fuckin know what that means. But there’s at least an attempt here to show the fucked up life they came from and an occasional attempt to grow beyond their self proclaimed ignorance. There’s a scene that’s just on the line of corny where they’re helped out by some undocumented hotel workers and discuss the immigration situation with them. But I think it works. This movie just skirts along the edge of so many things that I could hate but it somehow makes a good landing.
Well, except for the end credits redneck-themed rap song “This Is Our Song” by somebody named Colt Ford. It made the Justified theme song seem not that bad. I didn’t need to learn that that was a type of music that existed. Don’t look it up.
Anyway, welcome to movies director Billy Battles and co-writer Griffin Hood. A respectable debut. I’ll look for the next one.
VERN has a new action-horror novel out called WORM ON A HOOK! He has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the film criticism books Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal and Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics as well as the crime novel Niketown.