Reviewing a Danny Dyer film is like reviewing a nosebleed. It’s bloody pointless and bloody unpleasant. Outlaw is writer/director Nick Love’s fourth collaboration with Danny Dyer, the poor man’s hard man.
Made in 2007, Outlaw follows a group of men who turn to violent retribution after being failed by the legal system. Except they haven’t. This is how not to make a revenge film – based on Alex’s post on the subject, I’m going to go through the three ingredients of a decent revenge movie and explain how Nick Love makes Tarantino look like Gandhi. [Contains spoilers, but you won’t watch Outlaw because you’re good people with nice hair.]
For a revenge film to work, the harm suffered by the protagonist must be sufficiently bad in order to justify the bloody vengeance that follows. Here’s the wrongdoing suffered by Danny Dyer in Outlaw: He got punched by a man, after a car crash that was all Danny Dyer’s fault. Who can honestly say they wouldn’t punch Danny Dyer given half the chance?
What about Sean Bean’s character? Oh yeah, Sean Bean is in this. Presumably that’s where the entire budget went. Sean Bean goes vigilante after he gets home from fighting in Iraq to find his wife having an affair. That’s it. That’s his government failing him. That’s the law letting him down. That’s the world turning against him. Does he try couple’s therapy? Does he fuck, he goes on a campaign of violent retribution.
Then there’s Sean Harris. His grievance is that he’s a massive racist. His motivation for the bloody rampage that follows is fuelled simply by EDL-style tabloid outrage about the state of Britain. The other two men do have something resembling legitimate baggage but at this point, who cares?
The second ingredient of a good revenge film is characters about whom we care, or at least understand. As I’ve said, no one’s motivation makes any sense in this film; they’re all a bunch of two-dimensional sadists from the start, who become increasingly violent as the film progresses. Sean Harris’ racism is laughed away by the rest of the group, whilst he spends his time spying on the rooms of the hotel where he works. But around half way through the film Sean Bean hangs him, and I wasn’t sure why. So I checked Wikipedia and apparently it was for “being a liability, questioning his authority and insulting his wife.” These are the people we’re dealing with; people who’ll lynch you for sneezing on their shoes. Meanwhile Danny Dyer looks gormlessly on with a face like a raccoon who’s left the gas on.
Finally, the actual revenge needs to be proportionate for our sympathies to remain with our protagonist. Of course this is a lost cause in the case of Outlaw, whose characters would all rot in hell even if they spent the film’s final act doing charity work. But their revenge – let’s call it revenge for the sake of argument, even though it’s not actually revenge – is sickening, thoughtless and indiscriminate. They torture people, hang their friends and shoot the police. Yet still we’re invited to side with these characters, as the film continually seeks to glorify violence and torture. Any moral queeziness on the part of Danny Dyer fades further and further throughout the film, culminating in his gleeful embracing of murder in the final shot – and shot – of the film.
This is where cinema stops being simply crap and crosses over into sheer ugliness; a violent mess of headlines from The Sun. Even if you somehow put the politics aside, it’s still an insult to cinema. Unlike Prisoners, which is morally objectionable but nonetheless well made, Outlaw is completely irredeemable. It’s like Eastenders as made by the EDL. Nick Love? Nick fucking Hate. This might just be the worst thing Danny Dyer has ever done, with the possible exception of that time he told someone in print to cut off a woman’s face.