Outlaw King

 

starstarstarhalf

 


David Mackenzie’s muddy, bloody take on Robert the Bruce is a vivid and visceral affair.

   
Outlaw King

 

At least David Mackenzie is Scottish. The great figures of Scottish history seem to be invariably portrayed by foreign imposters, from Katharine Hepburn’s Mary of Scotland (1936) to the 1995 bloodbaths that were Braveheart (with Mel Gibson as William Wallace) and Rob Roy (Liam Neeson). Here, we have the California-born Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, but he does make a decent fist of his Scottish accent (and is perhaps the most intelligible performer in the cast). He previously played the outlaw Toby Howard in David Mackenzie’s masterly neo-Western Hell or High Water (2016) and returns for more sedition in Mackenzie’s visceral history lesson.

 

Like practically every historical epic before it, Outlaw King lays no claims to be a documentary. It does, though, take the salient details of Robert the Bruce’s biography – and the times he lived in – and pumps them full of vim and eye-catching detail. It’s hard to re-write history with fresh ink and ever since Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1970), the cinema has been hard put to make yesteryear look as muddied and gritty. There’s a good deal of mud in Mackenzie’s vision – and maybe one rainbow and sun-lit kiss too many – but the action certainly stirs the blood.

 

Billy Howle makes for a particularly hiss-able, cowardly Edward, Prince of Wales, and Florence Pugh provides an intelligent, heard-rending reading of Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert’s second wife. But it’s the battle scenes and Barry Ackroyd’s vivid cinematography that marks this out as a cinematic banquet. It is perhaps a shame, then – particularly considering the film’s $120 million budget – that most viewers will only see it at home and not on the big screen where it belongs. Being a Netflix production, Outlaw King was only shown in nine British cinemas.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh, Billy Howle, Sam Spruell, Tony Curran, Callan Mulvey, James Cosmo, Stephen Dillane, Steven Cree, Alastair Mackenzie, Chris Fulton, Lorne MacFadyen, Jack Greenlees, Josie O'Brien, Gilly Gilchrist, Robin Laing, Clive Russell.

 

Dir David Mackenzie, Pro David Mackenzie and Gillian Berrie, Screenplay David Mackenzie, Bathsheba Doran, James MacInnes, Mark Bomback and David Harrower, Ph Barry Ackroyd, Pro Des Donald Graham Burt, Ed Jake Roberts, Music Tony Doogan and Lucie Treacher, Costumes Jane Petrie.

 

Sigma Films/Anonymous Content-Netflix.

121 mins. UK/USA. Rel: 9 November 2018. Cert. 18.