I had been avoiding watching Netflix’s Outlaw King mostly because I value the director, David Mackenzie so much. The director of the acclaimed Hell or High Water is a director I have high hopes for so when I saw his latest film, Outlaw King, getting less than rave reviews, I decided to keep it sight out of mind. That was easy as my field is, generally theatrical releases and Outlaw King was on Netflix. Eventually, however, my curiosity got the best of me.
Outlaw King stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. Oddly however, when we meet Robert he is on his knee promising fealty to King Edward. Robert was told by his father that the politics of surrender were better than the bloodshed likely if they continued to resist English rule. This changes however, when the legendary William Wallace is captured and killed and his body parts are hung on the walls of a Scottish border city.
With his father having recently died, and now Wallace, Robert decides it is time to act. His family has a claim on the Scottish throne and he aims to take it. He is opposed by another Scottish family that also has a claim on the throne. Robert would prefer they unite for now and decide on the throne after disposing of the English but when Robert is forced to murder his rival, he knows the fight has begun and that he will not have all of Scotland with him, in fact, they may be just as dangerous as England.
As you can tell from the mention of William Wallace, this story is in the same vein as Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Robert the Bruce was a character in that film as well and he was indeed inspired by Wallace’s love of his country to rise up against the English. This story proceeds as if a sequel to Braveheart in some ways, at the very least a continuation of the story. Wallace is killed offscreen in Outlaw King, but his legend hangs over the story, just as Braveheart casts an Oscar winning shadow over Outlaw King.
That’s a shame because I happen to think Outlaw King is a better movie than Braveheart. Blasphemy, I know, but I have never cared for Mel Gibson’s epic. I found Braveheart loud and boorish and GIbson’s accent was something that I just could not get over. Outlaw King isn’t that much better, Chris Pine’s Scottish brogue is almost as laughable as Gibson’s, but I enjoyed the violent madness in Outlaw King more than I did in Braveheart.
Chris Pine may not have a great accent but he has a fearsome presence as Robert the Bruce. I enjoyed his straight ahead performance, he rarely appears to be putting on the airs of machismo, he seems genuinely tough. I liked the battle sequences which are raw and gritty and while they may not have the epic expanse of Gibson’s Braveheart, the closeups and the uptight tension of the smaller scale Outlaw King gives the film an authenticity I feel was lacking in Braveheart.
Nether Outlaw King or Braveheart are movies I ever plan on watching again as neither one is much fun. Director David Mackenzie however, at the very least, compelled me more with his Robert the Bruce story. I was genuinely invested in his story and while I don’t love the movie, I wasn’t compelled to get on my phone and ignore it. Perhaps if you are a fan of historic epics on muddy, bloody battlefields, Outlaw King is the movie for you.