Chris Pine stars as Scottish warrior king Robert the Bruce in this Netflix period action pic directed by David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).
It’s fine for popcorn fodder, says Daniel Rutledge, but doesn’t live up to what you’d expect from director and true story subject matter.
A dumb, bloody, sort-of sequel to Braveheart, this take on Robert the Bruce’s battle for Scottish independence is entertaining but fairly empty. If you’re after a mentally unchallenging swords-and-shields action flick, this will scratch the itch, but the source material and filmmaker could have delivered so much more.
The sober, calculated class director David Mackenzie showcased in Starred Up and Hell or High Water is sadly missing. In its place is an unabashed attempt at a rousing crowd-pleaser, its dramatic oomph and meaningfulness scaled back as a result, despite the powerful true story on which it’s based.
Thankfully, Mackenzie’s skill at directing action and ability to seamlessly blend reality with special effects is not also lost. He shows off with a few complicated long-takes and fills the battle scenes with graphic violence and a stylistic flair that’s consistently enjoyable. Some of the brutality is confronting, especially a disembowelment scene that makes for very grisly viewing.
As in Braveheart, the English are portrayed as evil, sadistic despots while the Scots are chivalrous, ethical freedom fighters. Chris Pine’s Bruce and his buddies fatally stab and hack apart about three Englishmen per second, just as Mel Gibson’s Wallace and his buddies did before them. It’s pretty sweet for popcorn fodder. But that sort of overly simplistic treatment doesn’t marry well with a film attempting any level of historical accuracy. It feels outdated.
Sure, faithful adherence to the complex actual events Outlaw King is based on would have made for a boring movie and there’s documentaries and books for that, anyway. But the filmmakers have pushed it too far in the other direction. It’s good fun—however, I wish they had a little more faith in the audience’s intelligence.
But hey, you do get to see Chris Pine’s dick.