Review: The Baytown Outlaws
PLOT: Three violent rednecks accept a job to kidnap a woman’s son back from her drug lord husband. While attempting to transport him back to her, they encounter a plethora of hired gangs who will stop at nothing to snatch the kid away from them.
REVIEW: Remember back in the mid-90s, when it seemed like there were about a dozen lousy crime movies a year pathetically attempting to capture that elusive mix of explosive violence and quirky dialogue that only Quentin Tarantino can master? Barry Battles' THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS feels like a relic of that time, mixed with the added inspiration of Joe Carnahan’s manic cops-and-crazies caper SMOKIN’ ACES. It’s a derivative but mildly watchable concoction; eager to please with lots of noise, chaos and juvenile humor, but only capable of diverting your attention while you try to name which movie it’s stealing from.
The “Outlaws” of the title are the Oodie brothers: Alpha dog Brick (Clayne Crawford), dimwitted McQueen (Travis Fimmel) and hulking (and mute) Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore). The three hicks make their living in Alabama blowing away criminals and druggies at the behest of a small town sheriff (Andre Braugher), who has raised them since they were orphans. Not really bad because the people they slaughter are dirtbags, the Oodies have no true virtues other than their simple-minded loyalty to their surrogate father and a general amiability.
One day, after they’ve botched a job and blown away the wrong set of crooks, they’re approached by a woman (Eva Longoria), who apparently admires their heedless style and lack of moral highground. She’s prepared to pay them a lot of money to find her son, a handicapped boy named Rob, and take him away from her drug lord ex-husband, a high-strung nutcase (Billy Bob Thornton). Not willing to mull it over, the brother quickly accept and nab the boy in their own bombastic style. (Crashing a car through a mansion wall, shooting up the joint, etc.)
Callous and totally idiotic up until this point, the brothers find some kind of kinship with poor wheelchair-bound Rob; they treat him like a newborn puppy while blowing away all who stand in their way. That includes a bevy of "wacky" crews dispatched by Thornton, like five killer whores (led by Zoe Bell), a bunch of Road Warrior rejects and a motorcycle gang of Native Americans. The boys have to make like Walter Hill’s Warriors and defeat each increasingly disturbed group before reaching their destination.
THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS doesn’t suffer from a lack of energy; both in front of and behind the camera, there’s unquestionably an intense belief that all this over-the-top trashiness will be a barrel of laughs to all who encounter it. The three brothers are played with unabashed slack-jawed enthusiasm by Crawford, Fimmel and Cudmore, with Fimmel looking the most likely to have soiled multiple shirts with spittle and stale beer. Longoria seems pretty bored most of the time, but she’s not in it all that much, while Thornton wrangles up a few bursts of hostile vitality for his “Carlos,” who is a rather vile character.
But there’s a nagging sensation throughout the film, one that comes with most movies that are so obviously inspired by better ones: Boy, I’d rather be watching those other films! One sequence calls to mind PULP FICTION, you find yourself thinking about that; another reminds you of THE WARRIORS, you start appreciating that grungy B-movie classic all over again. THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS doesn’t really have an identity of it’s own, so it’s borrowing a few different ones. It’s actually quite surprising to learn that this screenplay, written by Battles and Griffin Hood, was a Blacklist script; perhaps it had a fresher vibe on the written page before cameras started to roll. There’s nothing about the dialogue - mostly redneck backtalk and sardonic macho posturing - that pops, while the structure is preordained once you grasp the film’s concept. Which is very early.