OUTLAW KING, a lighter version of BRAVEHEART chosen to open this year’s Toronto
International Film Festival is also known to be a Netflix original movie. Netflix has come a long way at producing movies and can now be known for some good solid cinema.
OUTLAW KING, based historical events takes place after BRAVEHEART, though the story of the war between the English and the Scots never ends. Few dramatized segments like the reunion of King and kidnapped queen on a deserted Scots beach help spice the movie.
MacKenzie has mounted a handsome production at a cost of $120 million, quite different from his last entry an American heist film that also starred Pine. Here in OTULAW KING, it is horses, mud and the beautiful but dreary Scots landscape.
There is a lot of history to be told in the film, before the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) begins. MacKenzie effectively gets this out of the way in the film’s first segment when King Edward of England forces Robert into allegiance with the English. The villain of the piece is Robert’s old friend now a sworn enemy, the Prince of Wales (Billy Howle, the handsome lad from ON CHESIL BEACH looking sufficiently ugly and nasty for this role) who seems to be an uncouth loud-mouth that nobody respects, not even his father, King Edward.
Relief from the war is provided by the romance between King Robert and his wife, Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh) given to him by Edward, King of England (at the start of the movie). She is a feisty female who stands by the side of her husband and not afraid to say what she feels is right. Robert has a daughter, Marjorie from his wife who died while giving birth. They remain chaste on their wedding night and consummate the marriage much later. Audience will find the wait worthwhile in a steamy sex scene that lasts too short a time. An additional bonus includes Pine’s full frontal nudity shot when he takes a dip in the river later on in the film. The romance makes the film more personal as audiences can relate to a family. When Robert promises to fight a foe, one-on-one the next day, the worry of a wife for her husband rings real.
There is a lot of story that goes with the film – how Robert became King of the Scots through the priests (only briefly shown) , his allegiance to a new ally, James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and how Robert rounds up an army of Scots with the help of Lords still loyal to him, who are willing to go back to war. Director MacKenzie effectively gets this out of the way to prepare for the main course – the battle between the Scots and the English at Loudoun Hill.
MacKenzie, no stranger to gut violence and gore, having made his mark also in horror films, shocks his audience with a few stomach-turning scenes like the live gutting of a Scots by the English. The battle scenes are also sufficiently violent with lots of screaming and blood.
The TIFF version ran close to 2 and a half hours, but Netflix cut the film down to a 2 hour version, the one that is being reviewed. This new edit arrives just the week before the film opens on Netflix. I have not seen the longer version, but this one is sharp no-nonsense story-telling that is compelling enough for the average moviegoer from start to finish.