Review: OUTLAWS AND ANGELS
I’ve never been a fan of spaghetti westerns, but with the release of BONE TOMAHAWK this past year and now OUTLAWS AND ANGELS I may need to seriously consider watching more thriller/horror-esque western films. OUTLAWS AND ANGELS is the debut film from writer/director JT Mollner and stars Chad Michael Murray, Luke Wilson, Teri Polo, Francesca Eastwood, Ben Browder and Madisen Beaty. The story centers around a trio of outlaws on the run that decide to invade the home of an unsuspecting family for the night; however, not all is as it seems as roles are reversed and deadly secrets come bursting through the surface.
When it came to reviewing this film, I needed a few days to really take everything in since OUTLAWS AND ANGELS is unlike anything I’ve seen this year. From the opening scene (which was bloody and hilarious) to the ending (which left me shocked and laughing) I couldn’t peel myself away from what I was watching. Though this film is far from perfect, what it did right was keep the audience on the edge of their seat and guessing until the bloody end. What really elevates this movie from one that could easily be forgotten is the remarkable character development as well as all the twists and turns that were presented.
One of my favorite things to see in a film is when we are presented with the typical “hero” and “villain” only to have the roles then reversed. To see this scenario play out in OUTLAWS AND ANGELS, is in my opinion, one of the strongest aspects of the film. The actors did an incredible job of making their characters the archetype of what is envisioned in the old Westt; only to then flip the script and blur the lines of justification for the impending violence that is to occur. We are also gifted with incredible performances by Francesca Eastwood, Teri Polo, Ben Browden and Madisen Beaty; however, the real show-stopper was Chad Michael Murray. Though I am familiar with Mr. Murray’s work through “One Tree Hill” (don’t judge, I was a young and impressionable teenager) and HOUSE OF WAX (again, don’t judge) he really showed his range in this film. He was able to evoke so many emotions out of me; hatred, disgust and sympathy, that by the end of the film I found myself rooting for him. He was the perfect character to make us question what is right and what is wrong as well as being the bearer of justice for those who may think there are no consequences for their actions. The only character that I couldn’t get behind was that of Luke Wilson. He played the bounty hunter Josiah, and though I understood why he was in the film, I think the movie would have benefited from him not being in it at all. OUTLAWS AND ANGELS has a runtime of almost 2 hours which is long for this type of film and I think had Luke Wilson’s character not been involved it would have tightened up the story more and not allowed for the film to drag in some areas.
For JT Mollner’s debut film I was impressed with not only the story and acting but his vision of the design and ambiance of the Western Frontier. Each character’s dialogue and appearance was as if they lived and breathed the West and I appreciated that each actor looked the part of their character. It’s incredibly distracting when the actor’s appearance doesn’t match the tone of the film so I loved how Mollner made sure the characters looked as rough and dirty as possible with stains on their clothes, sweat on their faces, and rotted yellow teeth. As unappealing as that may be, it made the characters, and ultimately the movie, more realistic.
Overall, OUTLAWS AND ANGELS was a romp through the Wild West with lots of gore, humor and surprises. After having a few days to think about this film, I concluded that I really enjoyed the hell out of it as it was different and unique and kept me guessing throughout the almost 2-hours. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but I like the use of the fake-out endings that happened a few times as it kept me on my toes and forced me to pay attention to what was going on. Lastly, I need to give a shout out to Francesca Eastwood for playing the badass Florence Tildon and for portraying a strong female character that doesn’t need a man, or really anyone, to survive and thank you JT Mollner for including such a tenacious and strong-willed female character for the focal of the film. If thriller/westerns/black comedies are your thing, then make sure to check out OUTLAWS AND ANGELS (now available to watch in limited theaters/VOD)