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1/04/2013

Review: 'The Baytown Outlaws' starring Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria



The South may never truly rise again, but at least in The Baytown Outlaws they can get some measure of revenge against through wanton violence. Directed by newcomer Barry Battles, the film is a slickly shot slice of grindhouse pulp, with ridiculously cartoonish characters, vulgarity, cultural stereotypes up the ying-yang, and a dumb redneck machismo that is oddly appealing for its utter lack of sensitivity. This shouldn't be quite as enjoyable as it turns out to be.

Some are already pegging Battles as the next Tarantino, but his film draws closer resemblance to the slickly crafted action of Guy Ritchie. A trio of Alabama rebels known as the Oodie Brothers has just laid waste to an entire household of people, only to discover purely by accident that they went to the wrong address. Oops. Are there any consequences for this massive screw up? Are the Brothers at all upset over the loss of life? Hardly, in fact it only earns them a high-paying gig when the sexy Celeste (Eva Longoria) catches a glimpse of their handiwork. After an awkward introduction in which brothers Brick (Clayne Crawford) and McQueen (Travis Fimmel) both lay dibs on who gets to sleep with her first, she hires them to retrieve her kidnapped godson (Thomas Sangster) from her ex, a mopey and cruel crime lord named Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton).

As is always the case, things are never quite what they seem and the boys find themselves in one flash bang shoot 'em up after another, which could quickly grow tiresome if it weren't for the clever reversal of type by placing the ignorant and callous rednecks as the heroes. Some will find it extremely uncomfortable rooting for them against a team of sexy lady bikers led by the awesome Zoe Bell and Serinda Swan, and then shredding a group of African-American hitmen, followed by psychotic Native Americans sporting bows and arrows. Sure, these are all bad people, including the Oodie brothers, but there's an inescapable tinge of "Southern justice" throughout. Battles is playing in much the same racial grey area as Tarantino's Django Unchained, so it'll be interesting to see if there's any public outcry.

"I sent some really awful bitches to handle the situation. Once they track down your fellas it's not gonna be a bloodbath it is gonna get fuckin' sexy." Not everybody can make dialogue like that work, but Billy Bob Thornton does it. I don't know at what point he stopped being an A-list actor but he's settled into a comfortable groove playing idiosyncratic, low-rent bad guys. He needs to keep it up.Longoria's solid for what amounts to a fairly thankless role where she's simply required to look hot, and it was more than a little shocking to see Sangster, who played Liam Neeson's son in Love Actually, flopping around as the handicapped godson. Nope, no subtlety in the depiction of the physically disabled, either. The real find here is Crawford, who has experience in this sort of film from Smokin' Aces 2. He's surprisingly charismatic and funny, a rough 'n tumble leading man who could easily be a star on the rise. Daniel Cudmore, who plays the mute Lincoln Oodie, is also impressive from a purely physical standpoint.

The Baytown Outlaws is excessively violent and more than a little offensive, but it’s that bad attitude which makes it a B-movie ride worth going along with.