DIRECTOR: david mackenzie (hell or high water, perfect sense)
STARRING: chris pine, Aaron taylor - johnson, billy howe, and florence pugh
REVIEWER: lyall carter
After being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce is forced into exile by the English and leads a band of outlaws to help him reclaim the throne.
Even before release Outlaw King seemed on a hiding to nothing having to live up to being the unofficial sequel to Mel Gibson's classic Braveheart. While it touches on the story of William Wallace, Outlaw King is a beast all of its own. And its a pretty wild one at that.
After the murder of William Wallace leads to rebellion, Robert the Bruce realises that its fight or be killed. Beaten, betrayed, and pursued, Robert flees throughout Scotland gathering a band of rag tag countrymen to take on the English once and for all at Loudoun Hill.
Outlaw King has to be Netflix's most ambitious project yet. A medieval epic, filled with sword fights, rabble rousing speeches, and Robert the Bruce with a mullet? After receiving negative reaction regarding its pacing at the Toronto Film Festival, director David Mackenzie cut 20 minutes off the films running time. And it kind of shows.
The story feels a little rushed bounding from swearing loyalty to the king, to betraying him, to then being on the run. When the English Prince Edward begins slaughtering Scots who protect Robert this feeling of anger towards the English and a passion for Robert's cause begins to grow. But before it can be fully realised we are off to the next scene. It doesn't feel like there is much time to breathe.
In saying that, it is a cracking tale with some of the best medieval war scenes ever filmed. Its utter bloody, muddy chaos and its frenetic; it never lets you up for air as you see men and horses swamped in mud, shot with arrows, and slaughtered by the sword.
Chris Pine does a stellar job as Robert but you can't escape the feeling that you don't truly get to know him or care for him in the way you did for Gibson's Wallace. Stephen Dillane is deliciously brilliant as King Edward with Tony Curran and Aaron Taylor - Johnson both outstanding as Bruce's loyal supporters. Also as a fan of the Scottish sitcom Still Game it was great to see a couple of the cast amongst Bruce's army.
But the acting plaudits have to go to Billy Howe who is having a terrific year with breakout performances in On Chesil Beach and The Seagull. Although briefly stepping over the 'overacting' line, Howe is superb as the slimy, cowardly Prince Edward struggling for his fathers approval.
No wonder people are saying that Florence Pugh is the next 'big' thing. With nothing more to play with than being Bruce's love interest she does wonders with it, giving it a depth that few actresses could. She is most definitely one to watch.
Although at times it feels a little rushed, Outlaw King is still a cracking tale with some of the best medieval battles ever put on screen.