American Outlaws

Directed by Les Mayfield
Starring: Colin Farrell, Scott Caan, Ali Larter, Gabriel Macht, Timothy Dalton, Harris Yulin, Ronny Cox, Kathy Bates.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for western violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
September 23, 2001

Well, this review of American Outlaws is incredibly late. It's so late, the film is nearly out of theatres, and for good reason. It's just no good.

Not that you would've gotten any impression from the ads, but this is yet another telling of the Jesse James story. Only this time it's a watered down, fluffed up version, full of young, attractive actors that look about as comfortable in cowboy hats as they would in black fur on a hot day. It mostly concerns the rivalry between Jesse (Colin Farrell, doing his darnedest to pull off an American accent) and partner Cole Younger (Scott Caan). However, their differences are put aside to keep the railroad from extorting the community of their farmland.

At this point you must be wondering: what about Robert Ford? The filmmakers would probably answer: Robert who? Little attention is paid to the actual story of Jesse James. Indeed, the film ends with the ultimate riding-into-the-sunset cliché shot. No tragic betrayal. No character study. No considering the fact that Jesse James was not just some Robin Hood of the West, but in fact a ruthless leader of a murderous mob. Just some cute little western action, leaving you all squishy inside.

Not even some decent performances from Timothy Dalton and Ronny Cox make American Outlaws worthy of a rental. Kathy Bates completely phoned in her performance as Ma James, and the young cast do little to help. Gabriel Macht, as Frank James, was the only remotely believable outlaw in the gang. It was a sad state of affairs, and gives me little hope for the future of westerns if this is the best today's generation can do.

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American Outlaws (2001)

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan