Outlaw King (2018) Netflix
“Based on the untold true story.” It's perfunctory, but it is something. See, I told you that apology from Netflix was real.
Premise: Robert the Bruce decides what he did to Mel Gibson back in the nineties was a bit shitty, so sets out on his own mission to attain “freeeedooom!” for Scotland. Again.
Delivery: Much of film watching is about expectations. For example, I was expecting Widows to be great, and was disappointed to find out I wasn't a fan. Empirically, Netflix Originals have been problematic; from the brilliant Apostle, down through lauded but frankly middling Beasts of No Nation and Annihilation, even further down with The Outsider (which wasn't Camus!) to Bright and anything with Adam Sandler in, right at the bottom.
David Mackenzie's previous films, Starred Up and Hell or High Water were both massively enjoyable. Starred Up in particular, was superb, essentially a modern day Scum- see it. But I knew by this point to temper those quivering, tingly feelings I was getting. With that in mind, minor gripes first. CGI blood spatter, popularised by the Spartacus TV show, can be an unwelcome effect, often clearly thrown in to up the gore count. Once or twice it is distractingly, obviously splashed over the screen. However for the most part, it's quite nicely used.
There was one point where a soldier jumps on what is clearly a model horse, but that's nit-picking. Chris Pine's Scottish accent has come in for abuse, and it is moderately disconcerting, though his 14th Century mullet is more so; it took me an hour to get used to. As for acting on the whole, well, it's not really the point (although Aaron Taylor Johnson achieves the remarkable feat of not annoying me for once). This is not a film with memorable, touching scenes or long monologues. There's no flowery, showy dialogue. Outlaw King is all about the set pieces, and it does those brilliantly. The barbaric horror of which will stick gloriously in your throat.
Did ye ever see a man take down a horse laddie? Or a man gutted? Or a man's head crushed like an egg? If your answer is, “no, but I want to!” then I bring good news- Outlaw King is the film for you!
The blood letting is incredibly brutal. Outlaw King definitely scores for gore and shock stock. It just depends on whether you like that or not, but personally I love it, so it's a plus here. The battle scenes are wonderfully executed, particularly the final clash of armies. The curtain closer is somehow obviously derivative of Braveheart and The Battle of the Bastards, yet astonishingly, outstandingly, very much it's own. Outlaw King definitely one upped those here. The gruesome effects of medieval weaponry is rarely displayed with such shocking candour. Again, for me, that added to the enjoyment.
Bedsit it? There's no reason not to! It won't be for everyone, but Outlaw King should sate the lust for the crimson stuff of a certain type of sadist. If the person you're with isn't similarly inclined, sell it as a Braveheart themed love story. Then feign ignorance. Carnage, and bloody good fun. 8/10
PS- Outlaw King would be awesome on the big screen. Just saying.