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No Mercy For Swine

The innocent are left beaten in the streets. Thugs roam alleys without regard for human life. Law and order is a feeble joke with a bad punchline. Welcome to writer/director Nick Cave’s vision of present day London. However, a group of maligned, emasculated men disappointed with the failures of the police force and government decide to take things into their own hands in Outlaw.

Many parallels can be drawn between a film like Outlaw and the emasculated male, revenge flick Falling Down. The main characters here are not much different from Michael Douglas’ turn as a white man on the brink of a meltdown in Falling Down. Sean Bean plays disillusioned paratrooper "Bryant", suffering from depression (among other things) upon return from his tour of duty in Iraq. Bean brings a convincing world weariness to his performance.

In short order, Bryant finds a kindred spirit in the form of an odd security guard, Simon Hillier (Sean Harris) who bemoans the lack of law and order out on the streets. Concurrently, a London barrister Cedric Munroe (Lennie James) loses his wife and unborn child due to his involvement in the prosecution of local drug baron, Manning.

Rounding out this motley crew of the maligned is Sandy Mardell (Rupert Friend), who was ruthlessly assaulted by thugs only to see them go free before his wounds healed and Gene Dekker (Danny Dyer), who is similarly assaulted by thugs during a car accident.

Outlaw taps into primal, visceral fears and anxieties that should resonate for just about every viewer. Most people (in the UK or elsewhere) have likely suffered injustice in one way, shape, or form. Nick Cave indulges the dark feelings of retribution and vigilantism that inevitably one feels upon being maligned and left feeling impotent to do anything about it.

The film plays out in fairly predictable fashion. Bryant assembles his "team" from the aforementioned men with the goal of "fighting back". Granted, none of these men (with the exception of Bryant) has any real experience fighting. Nevertheless, with the backing of policeman Walter Lewis (Bob Hoskins), these men begin targeting and taking down the aforementioned Manning and his henchmen.

Where Outlaw succeeds is in framing Bryant and the rest of the men as morally/ethically confused. There’s very little joy or catharsis these men derive from the vengeful, violent acts they perpetrate on the thugs they go after. In positioning the main characters this way, director Nick Cave creates a challenging conundrum. Clearly, the police force and the government have failed to protect their citizens, but indulging the desire for retribution ultimately begets more violence. Credit Cave for providing no easy answers.

However, Outlaw fails to provide any real surprises. We know vigilantism isn’t the answer and there’s virtually no way Bryant and the rest of his vigilantes can realistically "win". Additionally, the transformation of this handful of primarily briefcase carrying, middle class blokes into gun toting vigilantes is a bit tough to swallow towards the end of the film.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars