Formerly known as The Baytown Disco, Barry Battles’ feature debut is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 26th December 2012 and stars Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria. Right from the stylish bloody opening scene The Baytown Outlaws as it is now known, takes no prisoners. Telling the story of the titular outlaws, the redneck Oodie brothers, it is violent, sexy and a pleasure to watch due to its amiable cast and fantastic cinematography.
The three Oodie brothers are enlisted by Celeste (Eva Longoria) to reclaim her son from her bad boy ex-husband Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton). However the simple smash and grab of the kid Rob (Love Actually’s Thomas Brodie-Sangster) does not go quite to plan when first they find out Rob is disabled, then they realise they failed to kill Carlos and finally Carlos is not about to let Rob go without a fight. This leads to the three brothers, Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore), McQueen (Travis Fimmel) and Brick (Clayne Crawford) being targeted by an odd cast of characters including a drop dead gorgeous group of biker girls, Native American hunters and federal agents.
Citing Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie as influences, director/writer Barry Battles and co-writer Griffin Hood have assembled a crazy bunch of lowlifes to surround the central trio. However it is all about the brothers’ beef with Billy Bob that gives the story its propulsion. Like the out of their depth central characters of Lock, Stock and Snatch, the Oodie brothers find themselves involved in something far bigger than they expected when they take Celeste’s son from Carlos. However these brothers may be stepping into the big time but it never seems like anything they cannot handle. Particularly with biggest brother Lincoln (the silent, strong type) on their side, nothing seems to faze this laidback trio… until the final shoot out where they finally may have met their match.
Comparisons to Tarantino and Ritchie may get punters interested in the film but can also work against it with the lack of non-linear narrative being one major point of differentiation. The Baytown Outlaws is by contrast very linear to the point that the story becomes an extremely predictable road trip mapped out with little diversion from shoot out to shoot out. The quirky characters are not as memorable as anything either director has put up on screens in their best films and the villains in The Baytown Outlaws are dispatched and then dispensed with far too quickly to give them any time to develop or become real threats to our three anti-heroes. The script can be funny with brothers Brick and McQueen and Thornton’s Carlos particularly getting some decent lines but there is nothing as endlessly quotable as masters of juicy dialogue Tarantino and Ritchie.
However the banter between the brothers is deliciously delivered in imitable southern drawls but relies a little too heavily on ‘faggot’, ‘bitch’ and the typical machismo language that can invade and degrade these kinds of characters’ speech. That said, the script and performances ably keep these guys amiable, even if they are displayed as ruthless hit men right from the opening scene. Much like Tarantino at his comedic best, the film has tongue in cheek violence that rarely dwells on consequence or victims. In the amusing first scene, the hit men kill for money including shooting a man in the face, realise they have the wrong house and then move on. There is no moral quandary here; just a snazzy shoot out and humorous punch line.
In fact the South comes across, like Guy Ritchie’s London, as a bit of a moral vacuum with an underbelly of seedy characters who are very little concerned with the law and live lives totally dedicated to criminal activity, quick thrills and the pursuit of cash. Even the lawmen in The Baytown Outlaws are a morally dubious bunch except for the out-of-town federal agent trying to catch the Oodie brothers and get to the bottom of why the local Sherriff (Andre Braugher) has not had them hauled in sooner.
All this being said there are a number of damn good reasons that this film has been compared to great filmmakers who have dabbled in criminal underworlds. This is a exceptionally confident feature debut from director Barry Battles. Under his direction the cast are all superb and Dave McFarland’s cinematography is another outstanding element. From the Tarantino plundering ‘out-of-the-trunk-of-a-car’ shot to the vibrant colours, this film looks amazing with low angles aplenty giving the characters a larger than life appearance. The production design, bloody shoot outs and animated sequences are all stylish and set to dazzle, suggesting that the small budget went a long way in making this film look stunning.
Despite some great musical choices, there are more shoot outs than you can shake a loaded shotgun at and these begin to get monotonous toward the end. It’s not all action though with a lurking story of compassion and redemption going a considerable way to keeping it interesting.
There is enough Southern charm despite the recurring sexist language to compensate for its limitations. Though it does get repetitive, the cool central characters and their warming relationship with the captive kid keep it alive while the bloody shoot outs start to stagnate. The Baytown Outlaws is an extremely assured directorial debut oozing style, sleaze and more than a dash of Southern class. It certainly suggests we can expect to see a lot more entertaining escapism from director Barry Battles and writer Griffin Hood in the future.
Extras are limited but what there is makes up with quality what is lacking in quantity.
There is a half hour making of that starts out cutting between interviews of Battles, Hood and the producers talking about the development of the film. It then takes in the cast and the characters with contributions from all the players including Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria and has plenty of snippets of behind the scenes footage. The director of photography, stunt coordinator and VFX supervisor all get their chance to speak about the production, offering fresh insights and finally it all wraps up with some back slapping of director Battles from the cast who all think very highly of him.
Also included is the original trailer that was shot in order to convince Hollywood to back the film. This trailer/opening scene is referenced continually throughout the making of and is the tool that got Hollywood to take notice and it is very interesting to see how assured Battles’ style is and why producers would be willing to give him a shot at a feature. The disc also has the final trailer that was used to market the film.
The Baytown Outlaws is released by Universal Pictures (UK) on 26th December 2012