Being described as Tarantino-esque is surely one of the most impressive compliments a young filmmaker could receive, however, it also sets up some very high expectations. Unfortunately, Barry Battles’ The Baytown Outlaws comes tumbling down under these expectations.
Penned by Battles and Griffin Hood, The Baytown Outlaws follows a trio of hillbilly outlaws who make a living from enforcing unwritten laws set by the corrupt sheriff of the town (Andre Braugher). After being approached by a witness to one of their crimes, single mother, Celeste (Eva Longoria), offers them money to help in the return of her godson who has been kidnapped by her twisted ex-husband (Billy Bob Thornton).
There are several things to enjoy about The Baytown Outlaws. Dave McFarland’s cinematography is striking, capturing the hot, Southern setting of the film through a rich and warm palette. We feel as if we have been transported to the dry Texas deserts, with the Blu-Ray transfer looking incredible. Battles’ also shows a competency during the action sequences, with several high-octane chases and shoot-outs proving rather memorable.
Despite this aesthetic quality, The Baytown Outlaws does not have a strong enough narrative to maintain significant interest. The film lacks a natural flow, with the end result feeling like a string of loosely connected action sequences and irrelevant dialogue-heavy scenes. Dialogue focussed scenes are fine, if the writers have a flair for words but this is not the case here – these scenes are meant to build the relationship between the brothers and Celeste’s Godson, but these do not feel convincing or poignant enough to do so.
The characters also feel rather uninspired. The trio of outlaw brothers lack any authentic camaraderie, with no real sense of fun established between the characters. One would expect a Tarantino influenced actioner to have fun at its forefront, but this is not the case here – The Baytown Outlaws feels like it is taking itself a little bit more seriously than it should be. Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria appear in smaller supporting roles, which are unlikely to leave any lasting impact on the viewers memories. Perhaps had these roles been pushed to the forefront of The Baytown Outlaws, instead of the outlaw brothers, it may have proved a more engaging a likeable affair.
Some viewers may appreciate rock soundtrack and the influence from the likes of Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects, but to me, these were the southern not enough to save the film. Fortunately, a subplot concerning Andre Braugher’s sheriff and Paul Wesley as an agent investigating him, adds some interest, with the two actors bringing a natural sense of charisma and screen presence to The Baytown Outlaws.
Despite good intentions, The Baytown Outlaws is a tiring, forgettable romp with a broken narrative and unconvincing characters. Fortunately, there are several aesthetic pleasures to be found and likeable supporting turns from Braugher and Wesley.