Outlaws and Angels (2016) Review
Harrowing home invasion story set in the Old West.
Outlaws and Angels is a 2016 action adventure film about outlaws on the lam who invade the home of an unsuspecting, seemingly innocent, frontier family to hide out for the night.
The Western has had its fair share of transformations over the many decades since the genre got its start, often cyclical as things tend to be. These days, the hardscrabble, gritty authenticity of many early works are returning to form, though now layered in a mean sheen of contemporary violence and gore. One of my recent favorites is S. Craig Zahler’s psychological thriller Bone Tomahawk, a deeply disturbing film that took the Western and flipped it right on its end. With JT Mollner‘s Outlaws and Angels, there’s a lot that runs parallel, with jarring violence and a twisted story, though it’s not quite the epic it could have been.
In a dusty hollow of a town, a group of bank robbers led by Henry (Chad Michael Murray) make off with a big pull but in the process kill the mayor and a prostitute, one of them wounded as well, leaving a trail of blood as they escape into the horizon. On their tail is expert tracker Josiah (Luke Wilson), a hardened man with his own taste for blood, aided by some loyal if not quite so motivated deputies. The outlaws take a dangerous route that thins them to three, coming up on the farm and church of a burly man named George (Ben Browder), along with wife Ada (Teri Polo) and daughters Florence (Francesca Eastwood) and Charlotte (Madisen Beaty). The boys think they’ll storm in and take refuge for a short time, but what they get instead is a highly dysfunctional family that has a few secrets of their own, though Henry takes a fancy to Florence.
Modern home invasion movies are themselves a mixed bag, often nihilistic exercises that do little more than put victims in various states of unwatchable torture. Sometimes though, they are more dialogue driven, a battle between intellects that keep both sides imbalanced. Outlaws and Angels is a combination of both, with Henry doing most of the talking for the gang as he spars with the pios family, of whom George is the preacher but Ada the more consumed by her lord’s work. There are long stretches of conversation as Henry looks to position himself as a man to be feared, though his attraction to Florence weakens his resolve.
That’s not to say there aren’t some disturbing moments. Henry reveals his darkness early on before arriving at the house with an older couple who supply them with too much information. His cohorts are loyal but not without desperate and vile acts of their own, one of them taking to rape, though that itself offers a surprise as the victim reveals a shade about her that is unexpected. Moller, who also wrote the screenplay, gives us plenty of time to get acquainted with Florence and her damaged family, where things are happening that are far beyond any line that would qualify as normal. The film eventually sinks into depravity, revelling in the madness of the most foul of human nature.
Running a solid twenty minutes too long and often so vile it’s hard to watch, Outlaws and Angels is nonetheless a strangely compelling watch, despite its graphic indulgences. Unlike many in this line that celebrate such horrific violence, at least here there is significant motivation behind the bloodshed. That makes a difference and while not everything works quite as cleanly as it should, I still came away genuinely taken by its story and performances. It’s a flawed film but well worth a look.
Outlaws and Angels (2016) Review
Movie description: Outlaws and Angels is a 2016 action adventure film about outlaws on the lam who invade the home of an unsuspecting, seemingly innocent, frontier family to hide out for the nig
Director(s): JT Mollner
Actor(s): Francesca Eastwood, Chad Michael Murray, Frances Fisher
Genre: Western, Action