| The Red Right Hand
Despite various plot holes and character issues, Outlaw is one of those movies that will be labelled as unnecessarily violent and pessimistic but deserves more credit than it will receive. Another example would be last year's Greet Street Hooligans, starring Elijah Wood. Ultimately, Nick Loves' portrayal of intimidating and unnecessary run-ins in South London shows a lot of potential but remains flawed. Loves' previous efforts include the hit-and-miss The Football Factory and the underrated The Business, this plus the trailers and posters added to my overall misconception that Outlaw was going to be a black-comedy for the lads, entertaining us with the glamour of bungling criminals. To say I was wrong would be an understatement. Following the rather odd opening credits, Love shows the spry young Gene Dekker [Dyer] bouncing along to his car, with his wife-to-be. On their way to the ceremony, they stop at a set of traffic lights. No sooner have they stopped when a group of yobs in a Subaru pull up next to them. One of the chavs leans out the window and starts to goad and taunt Dekker. Kelly [Sally Bretton] slings an insult back before they make a quick getaway. Further down the road, the chavs catch up with the young couple. Panicking, Dekker's BMW screeches around corner-after-corner, before running into a chain-fenced dead-end. In the rear-view mirror, Dekker sees the blue car pull up, blocking all hope of an exit. He nervously steps out of the car, at first trying to reason with the lads, before offering money. They don't say anything, just proceed to beat the living daylights out of the young man. Granted, it's only a dream sequence but you can tell that Love has a distinct knowledge of what yobs are capable of, that they have no real intentions other than to fight and cannot be reasoned with at all. I can't say that it was solely down to the extreme-shaky-cam or whether it was just memories but I felt nauseas. I saw the on-screen chase, similar to countless others, except this time I actually felt nervous. I know I am supposed to review with an unbiased mind but in this instance, I really can't help myself; this film is about me.
Returning home from the war in Iraq, squaddie Bryant [Bean] returns home to find the locks changed and that his wife has moved on. This is a typical war-time scenario but the main difference is the group of youths loitering on the corner, taunting everyone who passes. On the first pass, Bean ignores it. The second time round, he's emotionally drained and bitterly frustrated, so when the chavs hurl insults at him, he turns to them and mutters, "You what?" Realising they may be in over their heads, the young men disperse. Desensitised by the war, Bean has returned home to find his country over-run by cocky kids and louts; disgusted, he forms a group consisting of himself and four others. The first is a security guard, Hillier [Sean Harris], rejected by the army, chucked out of the TA and a bit of a hot-head; a young, long-haired, rugby-playing student, named Sandy [Rupert Friend], who was left scarred and disfigured after an unprovoked attack; a barrister, Munroe [Lennie James], who was threatened by the henchman of a mob-boss on trial and eventually lost his wife and unborn child; and finally, Dekker, who was attacked after his paranoia got the better of him. Together they team up with an ex-policeman [Hoskins] (who has been relegated to escorting officials and collecting CCTV evidence on account of his inability to be crooked) and start to show those who try to intimidate and destroy everything, that they won't get away with it for much longer; that average people, who keep their noses clean, are sick of being treated this way and are more than capable of striking back if necessary. That's the heroic side of it all, the truth is that they are vigilantes; good yobs beating up bad yobs. The script is engaging enough and follows a simple plot but I felt it missed out two or three key elements that would have made this more of a success. Certain things are touched upon in conversation but never really addressed, such as Hillier's hypocrisy; ready to smash anyone, having no tolerance for anyone of race or religion. The nature of killing and justice is never really brought into focus either. Something that should be paramount is summed up in a sentence, "This is murder, I should know, this is my job. We need proof, undeniable proof that he was the one who did it." In addition to this, the bad guys are far too 2D. I realise this was done so that any sympathy we feel is only that their suffering be short but you never draw the line between the regular yobs on the streets and the large, drug-running mobsters they're simply all evil - to back this up, every other criminal is a 'kiddy-fiddler' or nonce. Further to this, no real solution is presented; the film acts more as a warning, stating that unless something is done (apparently it's Blair's fault) the public will rise up for themselves.
Earlier, I stated this film was about me. Obviously, I haven't killed anyone but I can certainly relate. The character of the student had suffered in a way that I did, a few years ago. I was cutting across a park one night when three guys held me down, ripped off my sleeves and drove a spirits cap into my left bicep, I was also attacked by chavs that intimidated me from their car to mine - though, that particular incident had a different outcome. More importantly, in 2004, I was sent to court and fined for 'excessive use of violence in the cause of self-defence.' A knife was held at my throat and a friend managed to pull the young man off of me. As he did, the knife sliced a gash in my neck. Convinced I was dying, I kicked his jaw and broke it in three places. The magistrates fined me a couple of hundred pounds and the chav got four weeks community service. I was born in London, I've never had a problem there. In Norwich, I have been involved in over thirty separate incidents, all of which were completely unprovoked, yet all ended in bloodshed or humiliation. I have lost faith in the police, who are bound and tied by paperwork and procedures, maybe even in the law itself but I would still never resort to what is offered in this film.
A movie that would be a close comparison to this would be one of the most unlikely, Batman Begins; a wealthy man is hurt by thugs and pledges to rid the streets of scum, Outlaw is a far more realistic and disturbing telling of the same principle. Despite the flaws, this is still a very important piece. The violence is similar to that of Reservoir Dogs, sparing but shocking enough to be memorable. The camera work, that left me queasy, is actually an interesting point. Love wants you to be scared, he wants you to feel uncomfortable right until the final moment. He does this by having the camera dart all over the set - similar to your own eyes, when your adrenaline is pumping. By the time our lead character has come to terms with himself and what needs to be done, the camera is stock still. As a transformative piece this is extremely well done and definitely addresses issues that have been a long time coming. Unfortunately, a lot has been overlooked and too much blame placed on the Government, without offering any proper solutions or suggestions. I feel that a film will be released, that completely covers the nature of yob culture in the UK, when it will rear its head and who will direct it is still a mystery but not dissimilar from walking down a dark alley late at night, just keep your eyes open and be aware of what's coming up ahead.
16th March 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Munroe goes to the bar for a round of drinks, as he turns away a large drunk nudges him and shouts, "Watch where you're going you black cunt! Get the fuck out of here before you fucking regret it!" He wipes himself off and heads back to the table, asking if they can leave. Bryant doesn't stand for that and grabs him by the collar, drags him across the bar and shouts, "Who said it?" Once he has words with him, he wanders back to the table, on-a-high, saying, "We're gonna fucking fight them." I just liked watching the lads' faces drop as Bryant says this to them. They're all talking about it and when presented with an honest fight, they instantly shrink into their seats and want no part in it. I'm not trying to illustrate the fear that struck them, nor glamorise the pending brawl, more draw your attention to the notion that once they got over their fears and stuck it out, together, they found a united strength. Whether this is a good thing or not is for you to decide. After all, are they not simply forming their own gang?
Though I hated him in Severance, Danny Dyer is actually a pretty good actor. His accent is strong and his face irritating but something about him really rings true and reflects a large portion of this nation.
"I'm talking about putting something of substance together. I'm talking about getting back at the people that hurt you! I'm talking about violence!"
In A Few Words:
"An interesting piece that certainly warrants a look but it's definitely no Taxi Driver"