The Sentient Plank of Wood That United Scotland

Chris Pine, ‘Outlaw King’ With a Terrible Mullet

I saw the Outlaw King movie on Netflix. Apparently, cinema refuses to ignore any moment in the history of the British Isles. Outlaw King fills in a tiny gap between the end of Braveheart and when the Age Of Kings really began to rock-n-roll. Robert The Bruce and his ragtag band of supporting characters from Outlander and Game Of Thrones get all guerrilla on King Edward I, and then 670 years later we have the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Chris Pine plays Robert The Bruce (Bruce Robertson), who united the skanky-ass tribes of Scotland in the early 1300s despite having the personality of a wet piece of toast. This movie finally lays bare the truth that Pine is a terrible actor. We’ve already turned over two iconic pop-culture roles to this man with the sinkhole eyes. Hopefully his performance in Outlaw King will prevent his accidental casting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or any universe. Here, he displays two emotions: Confused and muddy. He stares blankly at the vast moors like he’s recently been lobotomized. We get a quick and gratuitous shot of his penis as he bathes in a cold river. It’s his most expressive moment.

OUTLAW KING ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: David Mackenzie
Written by: Bash Doran, David Mackenzie, James MacInnes, David Harrower, Mark Bomback
Starring:Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Florence Pugh, Billy Howle
Running time: 121 min.

Everyone involved in this unwittingly hilarious, intermittently gory nonsense wears a series of ridiculous tunics and costumes. At one point, when Pine was riding around on a horse while wearing what looked like a gold blanket, I had absolutely no way of distinguishing Outlaw King from Monty Python And The Holy Grail. Except that Outlaw King takes itself with total seriousness, like it’s some sort of public service. Director David Mackenzie handled the duties in the Texas noir thriller Hell Or High Water. Now it’s clear that movie owed its success to the Taylor Sheridan script and to Jeff Bridges, not to any great skill on Mackenzie’s part. He handles the battle scenes well enough. But not even John Ford could give Pine the charisma of a nation-birther.

The film has its positives. Stephen Dillane plays Edward I like a ruthless real-world Stannis Baratheon. And two relative newcomers completely steal focus. Florence Pugh is magnetic as Bruce Robertson’s second wife, Elizabeth. Pine can’t seem to muster up much enthusiasm for their scenes together, but she has good chemistry with herself. Billy Howle, as a weird Prince Of Wales, gives an even more outstanding performance, so over-the-top that it might as well be from another movie. A scene where he holds up the heads of two swans and gives a battle cry belongs in the pantheon of cinematic legend.

Like Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator, Howle steals the show from a stiffly-played hero. I found myself wanting him to win, or wishing he’d been cast as Robert The Bruce. You might not want to follow that guy into battle. But at least he knows how to party.

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Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 12 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer for both film and television, Neal has written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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