A review of  American Outlaws” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for gunplay, adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes


When the lights went dark, my sixteen-year old daughter whispered in my ear (in reverent tones), “There are so many hot guys in this, and they’re cowboys”.  My sentiments exactly.  Unfortunately a posse of buff bods isn’t enough to rescue a banal script and flat acting from feeling like a TV-movie-of-the-week.

Colin Farrell is the next It Boy, and clearly this conventional western has been cobbled together as a vehicle for his boyish good looks.  And boy those looks are good.  Farrell plays the infamous Jesse James, a rebellious young pup with his eye on a sweet young thang from his hometown of Liberty, Missouri.  Between his furtive glances and fumbling expressions of love, Jesse joins forces with his brother Frank (Gabriel Macht), and a passel of their Younger cousins (Scott Caan, Will McCormack, Gregory Smith) to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.  It seems that corrupt railroad barons are forcing them off their land in the name of “progress”.  When the evil Rock Island Railroad chief makes a tactical misstep, the renegade farmers reach the end of their already short tether.

Steeled by four years of Civil War battle, the self-titled James-Younger gang is mentally prepared to exact their revenge on the railroad where it will hurt the most – in the pocketbook.  Scampering through the Old West in fitted designer duds, the gang sabotages newly constructed train tracks and robs the banks where the company’s payroll is stored.  As Jesse’s notoriety grows, the gang’s internal structure is threatened.  What happened to all for one and one for all?

If it all sounds dully familiar, think back a few decades to those Wild West heroes Butch and Sundance.  From A to Z this is a poor man’s imitation of that legendary classic, right down to the comical bank heists and dynamite train blasts.  Farrell does have that certain something, though he strutted it with a lot more edge in last year’s “Tigerland”.  A few clever escapes, romantic interludes, and hunky chiseled cheekbones make for lightweight entertainment, a harmless way to see out the summer.