Outlaws and Angels
Directed by J.T. Mollner
Opens July 15
J.T. Mollner’s Outlaws and Angels probably needed a handful of rewrites to cut down on its more obvious dialogue, but when the film is over you won’t remember the sophomoric talk of all the creative places cowboys want to put their Cyprian scepters. You’ll remember the rotting moral code everyone in this scorching anti-western tries and fails to live by. The nearly neon radiance of the natural world that the wretched, corrupted spirits of this film occupy, captured in ravishing 35mm, slowly fades, replaced by an overheated series of browns, reds and yellows. The very grass they walk on seems to die as the full extent of their warped ethics stretches out like a snake.
When Henry (former teen heartthrob Chad Michael Murray) and his gang of halfwit thieves rob a bank and kill a bunch of innocent people on their way out the door, they have to travel to unfamiliar territory to stay out of the sights of bloodthirsty bounty hunter Josiah (Luke Wilson), dispatched to bring back their heads. Henry and crew pick the Tildon family farm to lay low, intimidating mother Ada (Teri Polo), youngest daughter Charlotte (Madisen Beaty) and father George (Ben Browder) easily enough. It’s eldest daughter Florence (Francesca Eastwood) who throws a monkey wrench into the works. She doesn’t seem overly fond of her family, and the more time she spends in Henry’s company the more she starts thinking the curt gunslinger might be her ticket to freedom. Starts to make the seasoned criminal wonder just what’s been going on at this farm…
Outlaws and Angels won’t win a lot of friends for its depiction of sexual assault or its frequent slaughter of decent people, but this film’s nastiness is a virtue; as appealingly raw as Colin Stetson’s broiling score. So few films are willing to risk looking outright repugnant for the sake of trying to replicate both the actual hardship of frontier life and the malicious tone of the meanest Italian genre fare of the 1970s. If you found yourself wishing The Hateful Eight would quit its circuitous gabbing and get to the point already, this is the knife-twisting oater for you. It’s much more grammatically and tonally aligned with any of the dozen Django movies than anything in Tarantino’s catalogue. An eager student of the likes of The Last House on the Beach and Late Night Trains, with none of the lunkheaded social commentary and twice the style, Outlaws and Angels hurts going down but feels good when the burn settles in.