Billy Bob Thornton is back! Although underused in this shoot 'em up that might be trying just a little too hard to be crazy.
State Street Productions
Directed By Barry Battles
Clayne Crawford, Billy Bob Thorton and Eva Longoria
Friends often accuse me of being over-critical, a man unable to enjoy mindless entertainment. Damn right I'm über critical, that's my job, but there are instances where I've found enjoyment from an out-there, balls-to-the-wall, ridiculous feature. I'm a fan of films such asShoot 'Em Up and the first Smokin' Aces. The issue with the somewhat enjoyable The Baytown Outlaws, is that it comes off as a carbon copy of those films. Attempting to be super violent while somehow playing it tame at other times, The Baytown Outlaws is a lot like the NY Jets 2012 season; it finds ways to clumsily push down field, but can't seem to find the end zone.
Brick, Lincoln and McQueen Oodie are three down on their luck bad-asses for hire. Careless and brutal, they are the definition of run and gun bandits. After botching a job, they find themselves stiffed out of a payment. When Celeste (Eva Longoria), an attractive young woman who has no sense of the situations she puts herself in, offers the Oodies a large sum of money to kill her ex-husband and free her godson from his evil clutches, the boys can't pass up the opportunity. Kidnapping is not really their game, but the brothers have dreams of turning their lives around (or for McQueen, putting in a pool behind their literal, shit shack), so the dirt crusted trio jump in the car and head from Alabama to Texas to free Rob (Celeste's godson) and kill the man keeping him captive, Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton). What Celeste doesn't explain, is that Carlos is a nutbag drug lord with a team of psychopathic murderers at his beck and call and Rob is a wheelchair bound teen with cerebral palsy. Successfully snatching Rob the boys once fail to do the job right, leaving Carlos alive. With a cavalcade of maniacs, an ATF agent and a bitter sheriff on their tail, the Oodies attempt to complete the job and get themselves on a better life track.
The madcap assassin madness of Smokin' Aces consisted of three inbred redneck brothers, ex-cops, sexy women and a master of disguise, just to name a few. While the comparison between the Oodies and the brothers of Smokin' Aces is the only real startling double take, The Baytown Outlaws seems to take the theme of mind-boggling teams of killers and just applies the “let's see how crazy we can get with this” theory. A team of biker hookers, a group of highway pirates who drove into the film straight from beyond the Thunderdome and a tribe of arrow shooting Native Americans also mean to make the Twilight wolf pack, but only highlight the bonanza of blood soaked silliness. It seems that much more attention was paid to seeing how far off the cliff the filmmakers could push the wildness factor, as opposed to caring about tying the over-the-top aspects of the picture into the rest of the story. Turning up the ridiculous, fun factor and succeeding consists of more than just coming up with the nuttiest idea you can think of and slapping it into the middle of your movie. There's a certain type of talent you need to push out a gem of madness like a Hobo With a Shotgun. I can't rightly say co-writer/director Barry Battles doesn't have that gene in him, but he certainly misses the mark here.
As Brick, the lead Oodie, Clayne Crawford has shaken the Ray Liotta-ness that was so prominent when he co-starred in The Perfect Host and has become a full on scraggly Rick Schroder. His facial resemblance has absolutley nothing to do with his performance, but it's hard not to think Clayne Crawford was created in a test tube simply to resemble other actors. Having made his name in the world of T.V., I am fairly unfamiliar with Crawford aside from his work in The Perfect Host, but that makes his performance as the elder statesman of the Oodie clan all the more impressive. Crawford may be living in the skin of a stereotype, but his character is worlds away from what I expected of him; so he gets some extra credit. Travis Fimmel plays the youngest/dumbest Oodie, McQueen, and if he doesn't jump out at you as a Sons of Anarchy reject, get your eyes checked. McQueen is the loveable doofus with a heart, something that is not that difficult to pull off, but I'm not going to hold that against him. The real treasure of the Oodie group is Daniel Cudmore as hulking, mute, Lincoln. Appearing in the past in bothX-Men and Twilight movies, Cudore never stood out in anyway to me before. As someone who cannot speak, Cudmore never over acts with his mannerisms, a mistake often made by actors playing a mute character.
The young leads in The Baytown Outlaws are flanked by a rotating cast of well known names who seem to be dialing in their performances. Andre Braugher tackles the role of the loafing sheriff out to aide himself and no one else. Michael Rapaport checks in as the owner of a bar the boys stop in and Eva Longoria hoves onto the screen wearing some short shorts, which earns The Baytown Outlaws an extra Star, right off the top. The big draw of the film (aside from Longoria's smooth skin) is finally seeing Billy Bob Thornton back in action following his semi-retirement from acting. Thornton throws down some fun loving criminal madness for the audience, but in the end he's surprisingly underused. The still young Thomas Sangster, who plays the disabled Rob, proves he has what it takes to tackle any role. I didn't realize at first that he was the little lovesick misanthrope stepson of Liam Neeson in Love Actually. If Sangster plays his cards right and lands some big roles, we may be seeing a lot more of him in the future. Bombarding every frame with as many recognizable faces as humanly possible, the focus of The Baytown Outlaws is solely its presentation. With everything from confusing timelines, tired comic book artwork that fades faster than a fake tan and a plot more transparent than saran wrap, The Baytown Outlaws just can't pull the trigger, unlike its ultra-violent protagonists.