By John Wildman on 1.14.2013
Like a redneck puppy with an automatic weapon, Barry Battles’s The Baytown Outlaws just wants to be loved—and shoot up a bunch of stuff at the same time. You could say that the film demands that you leave your critical eye at the door, but it’s closer to the truth to say that it’s just going to do what it wants, and you can either enjoy yourself or just leave the theater. Except, to paraphrase Sally Field, it also not-so-secretly does want you to like it, to really, really like it.
The film begins as the three Oodie Brothers (Clayne Crawford, Travis Fimmel, and Daniel Cudmore), a trigger-happy trio of hit men, force their way into a gangbanger hideout looking to retrieve a fugitive. They wind up killing everyone in sight. After seeing the boys get away without a scratch or the slightest sniff from the local police, Celeste (Eva Longoria) recruits them to rescue her teenage godson, Rob (Thomas Brodie Sangster), from her estranged psychopath ex-husband, Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton).
And then the fun begins. With the sheriff (Andre Breughel) unhappily being pushed by an eager DEA agent (Paul Wesley) to stay on their trail, the Oodie Brothers make an assault on Carlos’s compound, grab Rob (whom they discover is wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy), and head out of town. Carlos survives the attack, however, and sends out teams of assassins to intercept the Oodies and take Rob back. A band of lethal whores, some African-American road pirates (complete with an armored tank-car), and some tree-climbing Native American snipers all stand in the way of the Oodies and Rob making it alive to Celeste.
The Oodies—half-cocked mastermind big brother Brick (Crawford), mute physical giant Lincoln (Cudmore), and comical idiot little brother G.I. McQueen (Fimmel)—bond quickly with Rob while on the run. Despite their Klan heritage, courtesy of their outlaw daddy, and subsequent rougher-than-rough orphaned upbringing, these guys have heart. The kid isn’t just a paycheck—they’ve more or less adopted him. And as the infuriated Carlos keeps raising the stakes, the Oodies keep thwarting the killers he sends their way.
Battles and co-screenwriter Griffin Hood throw violence, bloodshed, and cornball jokes at the screen with equally rapid-fire delivery. While their efforts to infuse the story with “heart” are handled with the same amount of nuance and care—which is to say, none at all—Baytown Outlaws maintains its raggedy puppy-dog charm. Thornton chews the scenery and spits it out just as you’d hope he would in a movie like this, and Crawford, Cudmore, and Fimmel have the right chemistry as the renegade brothers.
The degree to which you laugh or wince will depend on your taste for this type of shenanigan-filled entertainment. Even if Roger Corman doesn’t hold a hallowed place in your film universe and you would rather eat nails than see the South rise again, you will likely still have your share of giddy moments watching The Baytown Outlaws, better judgment be damned.
Source: Film Comment