• Review: Outlaws and Angels (2016)

    From Mark R. Leeper@21:1/5 to All on Wed Jul 13 11:10:37 2016
    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    [Warnings: This review contains spoilers. Also, the film has
    sexual content.]

    CAPSULE: A gang of outlaws robs a bank and holes up
    in an isolated house on the prairie. The family
    tensions, seemingly small at first, boil over with
    really unexpected results. Most of the frontier
    atmosphere feels authentic until it doesn't. And then
    several things go strange. This is really not a
    traditional Western. This is a playful film that takes
    chances, not all of which pay off well. J. T. Mollner
    writes and directs. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

    There is a 1963 Italian horror film entitled "WHAT!". The
    implication of the title is that there is a plot twist that will
    leave the viewer truly boggled. Sadly the film did not have that
    power, and it seemed to me unlikely that any film could deserve
    that title. With OUTLAWS AND ANGELS it finally happened. I cannot
    speak for the viewer but OUTLAWS AND ANGELS has some of the most
    startling plot twists of any film I have ever seen. It takes a
    long time to get to the surprises--much too long for the film's
    good--but once you are there the whole film twists in plot, style,
    and tone. Up to that moment one wondered what exact mind games
    were the characters playing with each other. But when things
    change the question is what mind games the director is playing with
    the viewer.

    It is 1887 in Cuchillo, New Mexico. Five desperadoes have robbed
    the bank in town. One is killed in the getaway, and another dies
    shortly thereafter as the gang is ready to murder anyone in their
    way. They ride off with two bounty hunters in what would be called
    "lukewarm" pursuit--no pun intended by the main bounty hunter is
    played by a strangely cast Luke Wilson. Out on the trail the
    robbers see an isolated house, the home of a dysfunctional family
    of four. The outlaws decide to hole up and rest in the house. The
    family is recovering alcoholic George (Ben Browder), his wife Ada
    (Teri Polo) and their two bickering daughters, Charlotte (Madisen
    Beaty) and fifteen-year-old Flo (Francesca Eastwood, daughter of
    Clint). Flo takes an immediate interest in wanting to understand
    them and perhaps learning something useful to save her family.
    This part of the story drags a bit as writer and director
    J. T. Mollner lets some sequences over-extend on with little
    happening. Tensions rise as the story moves to a reckoning.

    There are several problems with ANGELS AND OUTLAWS. One problem is
    just the makeup for the actors. It probably is intended to make
    them look sweaty, but instead the effect is to make them glossy--so
    glossy that they seem to reflect the studio lights and the
    reflections become a distraction. Lines of dialog are lost in
    indistinct enunciation made harder by accent. Well into the film
    there is a clothing anachronism that contradicts the plot and
    characterization. The film is short on film rather than digital
    and some of cinematographer Matthew Irving's outdoor vistas are
    beautiful and what you see a Western for. However, most of the
    story takes place in-doors, most of that in one room. There is
    little use of the wide-screen.

    This film takes some truly unexpected turns and does much
    unexpected. It is mediocre as a western film, but it is more a
    game between the filmmakers and the viewers. I rate OUTLAWS AND
    ANGELS a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. It goes into a limited
    release on July 15.

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    Mark R. Leeper
    Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper

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