Screenwriter Sean Ryan cobbles together every Western movie trope he can come up with to create a cliché riddled movie that collapses under the weight of its impure intentions. You won’t find any character development here because every portrayal is as one-dimensional as they come.
“Witness the dark side of the American Dream” is this film’s tagline that pretends such a thing were necessary in the face of a crumbling country that succumbs to mass shootings on a daily basis. Perhaps it’s time to go heavier on sex and romance rather than on American Cinema’s knee-jerk tendency toward gun violence — something to consider.
The cynicism inherent in a movie constructed solely of piecemeal elements of mindless violence is obvious. “The Outsider” is far from the revisionist Spaghetti Western that it imagines itself to be. Here is a movie so derivative that you can set your watch by its roulette approach to satisfying imagined demands of the genre. This isn’t storytelling so much as it is a mishmash of violent sequences stuck together without so much as a second thought given to thematic cohesion. All for the love of revenge, the undying motivation of all Western ideology.
Country music singer-turned-actor Trace Adkins is no Kris Kristofferson (see “Heaven’s Gate”). Relying on his gravelly baritone voice, pokerfaced acting style, and a deadpan delivery that would make Clint Eastwood break into laughter, Adkins plays small-town sheriff Marshal Walker. Conflicts surface between Walker and his dumb-as-a-stump son James (Kaiwi Lyman) after James rapes and accidentally kills the wife of Jing Phang (John Foo), an immigrant railroad worker with some martial arts skills up his sleeve. Every roundhouse kick feels like it comes from the sensibilities of a ‘70s television show. Yawn.
Poor lighting and a production design that puts your feet to sleep, underscore a film whose hollow religiosity and misdirected sentimentality sit in your stomach like a slow-working poison. “The Outsider” could be taught in film classes as an example of what not to do as a screenwriter. Exploitation is one thing (see “Machete” for an example of a good one), but you have to know the rules of the game. Director Timothy Woodward Jr. and his screenwriter just want a paycheck. Theirs is not a product worth paying to see.
Not Rated. 86 mins. (C-)
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