Outlaw Posse Review

Mario Van Peebles returns to the American Western genre in his spiritual sequel to his 1993 film, Posse.

PLOT: 1908. Chief (Mario Van Peebles) returns from years of hiding in Mexico to claim stolen reparations gold hidden in the hills of Montana but is chased by Angel (William Mapother), whose rationale to the gold leaves a trail of dead bodies.

REVIEW: Mario Van Peebles is in the enviable position of being a writer, director and actor who can make the kinds of movies he wants with the people he wants. He was able to gain recognition on his own merit, outside of his father’s work, as he appeared in films like Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood, Ali with Will Smith, as well as cult classics like Gunmen which co-stars Christopher Lambert. He would work with him again in Lambert’s franchise sequel, Highlander: The Final Dimension. Plus, Van Peebles would gain acclaim as a director with the films he’s pulled double duty on — such titles as New Jack City with Wesley Snipes and Ice-T, Panther and Posse.

As a filmmaker, Van Peebles would be able to use his clout and work independently from the studio system, much like his father, Melvin Van Peebles. And in the current age, where indie filmmaking has been made incredibly accessible to the masses, the man has remained a constant worker in the movie business. This brings us to his newest film, Outlaw Posse. Van Peebles returns to the American Western genre that could work as a spiritual sequel to his 1993 film.

outlaw posse, mario van peebles

Mario Van Peebles’ character, Chief, is introduced as a recluse in Mexico. He is brought out of hiding when he embarks on a mission to retrieve hidden Confederate gold. As he assembles a posse, an enemy from the past named Angel, played by William Mapother, catches wind of his plan and blackmails Chief’s son, who is played by Mario’s real-life son Mandela Van Peebles, to join his father so that he can lead Angel to the gold or else he would kill his family. Chief gathers a rag-tag group that includes Southpaw (Jake Manley), a left-handed quick draw expert, Spooky (DC Young Fly), a bawdy vaudeville performer, Carson (John Carroll Lynch), an enforcer and former partner-in-crime, and Queeny, (Amber Reign Smith), a knife-wielding saloon girl.

Much of the film concentrates on the wildly different members of Chief’s gang as they come together to work as a team. A big theme of the film is about unity in such an especially rambunctious time as the Wild West. Unfortunately, the cast performance and individual scenes with the posse are the only elements that help to carry the movie from being a low-tier, cheaply-made flick that’s made available in the endless sea of independently produced titles on streaming. What’s frustrating about this film is that the ingredients are there, and there is a load of potential that can come from this script, but the movie, unfortunately, comes across like something that’s just a cut above an Asylum film. It’s hard to fault the movie on its budget since it’s a monumental task to get a production together, and Van Peebles’ passion for the movie can get pretty infectious, but a lot of the problems stem from the limited resources that he had to work with.

Outlaw Posse review

The movie feels like it had to rush through a lot of the details that audiences can take for granted while watching a movie. The development of the story and the theme are present, but it isn’t fully realized. The overall immersion into the movie’s setting is hindered by the lack of technical aspects in the filmmaking — which I plead guilty for sounding superficial — however it does go a long way. The cinematography in a lot of scenes is a bit too flat and un-cinematic, which makes it seem like you’re watching an old television show (which could have worked in its favor if that was the style they tried to emulate, but I get the feeling they wanted it to be grittier).

A lot of the production design also seems to be rushed in certain places where you aren’t able to buy the world you’re in. Everything looks too clean, too tidy. For an era where people worked with their hands, lived off the land and weathered harsher conditions, the characters wear immaculately pressed clothes that don’t seem to have been worn anywhere else but on the day they shot, and the sets and props look fresh off the shelves. The world doesn’t feel “lived in,” which was a big factor that something like the original Star Wars could hold over other sci-fi movies of the time and let the audience instantly become immersed in a fantastical setting, even if it’s in a galaxy far, far away. Unfortunately, the look of Outlaw Posse doesn’t show much quality beyond a Hallmark movie.

It almost feels like Van Peebles had too much on his plate, which left many of the story elements and the subplots with various characters to feel undercooked. A lot of these cosmetic shortcuts really undercut the tension of the movie too, even if you’re trying to ignore the shortcomings. A sequence in the finale supposedly takes place in a cave that, again, showcases the limitations of their resources as the set is just passable enough that you can identify where they’re supposed to be. However, you don’t feel the sense of danger one would get in an uncertain, claustrophobic area like a cave. Then, when the action ramps up, the special effects for some of the bigger visuals end up looking too computerized and too synthetic that the movie loses its teeth due to the underwhelming compositing.

Outlaw Posse review

I would like to reiterate that the movie had clear signs of potential. There are some fun ideas, including an amusing twist on the legend of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Van Peebles looks like he’s having a ball, and the ensemble in the posse, for the most part, has chemistry. Some of the energy in the individual scenes made the movie more of a joy to watch, but as a whole, it just ends up short. Van Peebles’ message in the film is also a refreshing one for the particular genre, even if it was in danger of crossing the line into hammy territory.

The movie also boasts an impressive list of an all-star cast, including Edward James Olmos, Whoopi Goldberg, Cedric the Entertainer, Neal McDonough, Cam Gidget and M. Emmet Walsh. However, many of the notable names only appear briefly and are barely given anything to do. Van Peebles has a clear love of the genre and the history of America. His vision seemed much grander for the film, and perhaps he was a little too overzealous to make it. It’s a delicate job to get a western right and when trailers for movies like Kevin Costner’s Horizon: An American Saga gets released, it makes you wish Van Peebles had the same kind of playground to work with.

outlaw posse, mario van peebles

Posse

NOT GOOD

4
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About the Author

1670 Articles Published

E.J. is a News Editor at JoBlo, as well as a Video Editor, Writer, and Narrator for some of the movie retrospectives on our JoBlo Originals YouTube channel, including Reel Action, Revisited and some of the Top 10 lists. He is a graduate of the film program at Missouri Western State University with concentrations in performance, writing, editing and directing.