American Outlaws


Colin Farrell as Jesse James
Scott Caan as Cole Younger
Ali Larter as Zee Mimms
Timothy Dalton as Allan Pinkerton
Gabriel Macht as Frank James
Will McCormack as Bob Younger
Gregory Smith as Jim Younger
Kathy Bates as Ma James
Nathaniel Arcand as Comanche Tom
Craig Erickson as Deputy
Ty O’Neal as Clell Miller
Ronny Cox as Doc Mimms
Joe Stevens as Loni Packwood
Terry O’Quinn as Rollin Parker
Harris Yulin as Thaddeus Rains

American Outlaws is a copy of Young Guns with a less interesting story and less engaging characters.

American Outlaws is an extremely fictionalized and Hollywood-ized account of the life of Jesse James. Rather than being a bad outlaw, this film portrays him as a good guy and an American Robin Hood.

After returning from the Civil War, Jesse James and his brother and cousins just want to settle down to a quiet farming life. However, the railroad has its eye on the James’ property. When Jesse and the other local farmers refuse to sell their land, the railroad and the Pinkerton Detectives lead a crusade of violence in the local community. After several people are killed, Jesse and his brothers start their own war against the railroad. Their band of outlaws begins to steal the railroad’s money from various banks and destroy the railroad property. They become heroes to the local population. However, the railroad is soon on their trail and internal disagreements threaten to tear the outlaws apart.

This film is rated PG-13 for western violence.

What Worked:
This movie had some fun action sequences in it. I had been waiting for a good western for a while. Though this wasn’t the best film, it still had a few highlights. These include a great shootout at a bank and an escape from a prison train. They make the film worth checking out at least on video.

This film was also surprisingly clean. There wasn’t much language or blood. It probably could have gotten by on a PG rating. It also had a few funny moments, especially with the James’ mother played by Kathy Bates.

What Didn’t Work:
I couldn’t get past the fact that they were romanticizing Jesse James. It seems a bit odd to glorify a real world criminal and make him a hero. Not only that, but historical buffs will pick apart the inconsistencies with fact. If they had made him just a regular fictional character I would have bought into it more.

This movie is, for the most part, utterly forgettable. The script doesn’t do much that is original and seems to steal from a lot of the older westerns. Some of the acting and dialogue is really cheesy. The music is also schizophrenic as it switches between a grand operatic score and pop music.

I would only recommend American Outlaws if you really want to see a western and there’s not much else to do.