Director: David Mackenzie
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Two-hour medieval epic Outlaw King is Netflix’s attempt to break into Oscar contention this award season. Despite the film’s $120 million budget and the reuniting of director David Mackenzie and lead-man Chris Pine for the first time since 2016’s best-picture nominated Hell or High Water, it falls short of being worthy for any major awards.
The film follows Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), who is crowned king of Scotland and must lead a rebellion to gain the country’s independence from English rule. Led by Edward, Prince of Whales (Billy Howle), the English army far outnumbers the rebels, making for a true underdog story.
The performances of the leads are all memorable, especially Howle’s. We are given a villain who is not particularly unique, but from his snarky attitude down to his hideous bowl haircut, the audience is given someone to hate and we can’t wait to see his downfall.
Pine delivers a strong performance as Bruce. He shows the traits of a charismatic leader. I could really buy into some of his pre-battle motivational speeches. Perhaps the most memorable and most underused character was that of Bruce’s second wife, Elizabeth, played by Florence Pugh. Their chemistry was built from the moment they are (arranged) married to actually falling in love later in the movie.
Game of Thrones fans will be all over the battle scenes as Mackenzie holds nothing back with full-on spear through the chest, throat-slitting, skull-crushing violence. Although maybe not executed with the type of precision we’re used to seeing in GoT, it still has the type of imagery that will make your stomach turn with the sight of dismembered bodies plastered all over the battlefield. With seemingly one brutally gory battle after the next it feels as if the movie never slows down and is a bit of a bloody mess (pun intended).
I often found myself checking my phone and losing focus to other distractions around the house. This could be because it’s on Netflix, which makes it easy to watch from the comfort of your home (but also easy to be distracted) or because, other than a few scenes that might make you lose your appetite, there’s nothing about the movie that’s memorable. We never really lean into the story as it’s paced from violent bloody battle scene to the next. Outlaw King is worth a look for fans of the genre, but beyond that, offers nothing you can’t live without seeing.