Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: Outlaw King

In Netflix's historical epic, Braveheart gets another chapter (and an upgrade).

Photo by Mark Mainz / Courtesy Netflix

I realize that you can’t make a serious movie and then call it “Braveheart 2,” but ... the makers of “Outlaw King” really should’ve gone with “Braveheart 2.”

The events of that film — you remember, William Wallace and blue faces and Scottish defiance — are a prelude to the history depicted in David Mackenzie’s “Outlaw King,” an epic recounting Robert the Bruce’s 14th-century guerilla war against the English. Wallace isn’t in this movie (most of him isn’t, anyway), but he’s discussed at length; his death serves as something of an inciting incident for Robert and his army.

And yet, while “Braveheart” had some manic drama and faux-toplofty pretension (it didn’t win an undeserved Best Picture Oscar for nothing), the tale depicted here is more satisfying and direct than the Wallace story.

After the rebellion Mel Gibson taught us about is put down, Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) agrees to serve Edward the I of England (Stephen Dillane), who is desperately trying to achieve peace before he dies — in large part because he doesn’t trust his son, the Prince of Wales (Billy Howle), to actually manage things. When the British make a show out of Wallace’s defeat, however, the rebellion rises anew and Robert is crowned King of Scots.

It’s a war movie from there, but a compelling one. The uprising is significantly outnumbered, blindsided by an untoward attack and demoralized. However — as is the case in most good war movies — the hero is savvy and the villain is kind of a moron.

There’s some slight commentary in there about arrogance and privilege, but “Outlaw King” is mostly just an entertaining yarn. Pine is good; Florence Pugh, the breakout star of last year’s “Lady Macbeth,” is even better as Elizabeth de Burgh, given more to do than the beleaguered Queen often does in movies of this sort.

That’s but one way that “Outlaw King” rises above its brethren. Medieval epics and middle-age dramas can often fall flat, rendered too often as westerns without charm; Mackenzie, who co-wrote and co-produced the film as well as directed it, has quite correctly realized that films in this setting are supposed to be adventures, not overwrought meditations on power. As was the case in his underrated “Hell or High Water,” he has proven adept at marrying quality and entertainment.

As a result, while it’s not perfect, “Outlaw King” is better than “Braveheart.”

My Rating: 8/10

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Pittsburgh Rings, Sings and Dances into the New Year

“Highmark’s First Night Pittsburgh” features 100 performances for kids of all ages and, of course, fireworks for everyone.

The 400-Word Review: At Eternity's Gate

It's a fair Vincent Van Gogh biopic, but fails to make a strong impression.

When I Realized the True Meaning of the Army-Navy Game

As Army veteran and Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva sees it, Army-Navy is football at its core in a setting that transcends the sport.​

Apteka and Whitfield Team Up for a Vegan Christmas Meal

The latest installment of Bethany Zozula's Sharing Knives dinner series brings Apteak co-owners Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski in for an Eastern European feast.

At Jergel's, It's Beers and Grub Near Some Rock and Roll

The Warrendale venue makes seeing a show feel like an easygoing night out.

The Mon Wharf Switchback Paves a Route to the River

The new ramp to the Monongahela River provides a way for bikers and walkers to access the riverfront.

Overseas Adventures Lead to Pittsburgh Weddings

These couples made the trip that would take them from dating to engaged.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in December.

We're celebrating a decade of Dinette, tempted by hot pitas at Pitaland and digging the (not so) secret sauce at Salem's Market & Grill.

I Made It! Market Can Simplify Your Holiday Shopping

More than 90 local handicraft artists will come together for a one-day event to save you from a panic-induced Christmas Eve shopping trip.

Have a Stout or an IPA, with a Shot of Space

Pittsburgh’s astronomers head to the taps to discuss everything from planetary movement to asteroids to — yes — the possibility of alien life, much to the delight of conspiracy theorists and space fanatics alike.

Festival of Lights Illuminates Holiday Cheer

La Roche hosts a night of drinking cocoa, taking carriage rides and getting into the holiday spirit.

Allegheny County Could Pay You to Convert Your Wood Burning Fireplace

In the hopes of reducing air pollution and improving indoor air quality — particularly for those with asthma — the county health department is conducting a program to convert open-hearth fireplaces into vented gas-burning appliances.

The 400-Word Review: The Possession of Hannah Grace

It's tough to take a setting this creepy and waste it, but this limp possession flick manages to do just that.

Relive Steelers' Super Bowl Wins at New Heinz History Exhibit

The Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum’s new exhibit features game-worn, signed jerseys and other artifacts from Steelers legends.

Five Essential December Events in Pittsburgh

A creepy Christmas, Cleveland comics and more December happenings.