Outlaw King Movie Review
Outlaw King, about Robert the Bruce’s efforts to gain Scottish independence, is essentially a darker, grittier, more depressing and less memorable sequel to Braveheart.
While not actually a sequel, the violent drama from David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water) is more or less a continuation of the events that occurred in Braveheart—at the end of Mel Gibson’s award-winner, rebel William Wallace is captured and executed, and Robert the Bruce renews the charge for an independent Scotland in the 14th Century. Within the first 20 minutes of Outlaw King, rebel William Wallace is captured and executed (only his dismembered arm makes an appearance), and Robert the Bruce renews the charge of an independent Scotland.
Fair or not, Outlaw King has the daunting task of living up to the excitement, energy and dirty charm of Gibson’s film.
It unfortunately doesn’t.
Chris Pine reunites with Mackenzie to play Robert the Bruce. He does a fine job, but the actor—and more importantly the character—seems to get lost in his own film. Over the course of its two-hour runtime, Mackenzie fails to define or develop Robert in a compelling way. Arguably, he fails to define or develop any key characters, the biggest issue of a movie that presents several well-staged battle sequences and that is otherwise technically proficient throughout.
Outlaw King looks great and sets a markedly different tone than Braveheart, but the characters all blend together. Thinking back just to earlier today, I can barely remember a scene in which Robert does anything noteworthy.
Worse, Mackenzie opts to focus on the early days of Robert’s rebellion, meaning that things get a whole hell of a let worse before they get better—and when they get better, there is still so much more story to be told. Even though Braveheart is a movie where the main character essentially fails at the end and is killed, but it is undeniably the more uplifting of the two; Outlaw King features one bad thing happening to Robert after the next, and Mackenzie fails to establish Robert’s strategic prowess or even how he would go onto defeat England.
Despite falling short in many ways, Outlaw King is a serviceable period war drama. It simply chooses to focus on the worst period of Robert’s ascent to the throne, a poor decision that ultimately dooms the film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.