Directed by Stephen McCallum. Starring Ryan Corr, Abbey Lee, Simone Kessell, Matt Nable, Aaron Pedersen. Australia, 2019, 92 mins. Certificate: 18
Out now on DVD from Altitude Film Entertainment
OUTLAWS is an inspiring movie. In a sense, it inspires you to return to the biker movies of the 1960s, perhaps the ones that you watched with your dad back in the day when there was a temporary dearth of horror product via the usual channels. Most of them haven’t endured especially well, but even some of the long-forgotten ones have enough wit, action and eccentric characterisations to make for fun retro entertainment. Chief amongst the pleasures of vintage offerings like THE BORN LOSERS, THE WILD ANGELS, HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS and Russ Meyer’s early MOTOR PSYCHO is the array of charismatic oddball actors like Bruce Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, Peter Fonda and Jack Starrett.
OUTLAWS, the directorial debut for Stephen McCallum from a screenplay co-written by star Matt Nable, self-consciously bids to be a post-SONS OF ANARCHY Oz modernisation of MACBETH, its tone set by an anonymous heavy metal track screaming “Lunacy” in the opening scenes. Alas, the Shakespearean power battle unfolds between uninvolving, posturing characters, and the most interesting work is done by a couple of actresses stuck with dismayingly underwritten roles. It’s also notably homophobic; we could accept that a 1966 movie about rival biker gangs might occasionally reveal itself as having a not especially progressive attitude toward homosexuality, given its origins in the last century. In 2019, there’s no such excuse.
Knuck (Nable) is the president of The Copperheads, whose jail sentence resulted in him temporarily handed over the reins to the younger Paddo (Ryan Corr, one of the tormented in WOLF CREEK 2). The duo’s father-son dynamic falls apart when Knuck is released, having become significantly gayer and more rapey since his prison stint. Knuck now faces a second-in-command heavily influenced by his scheming girlfriend’s (Abbey Lee) efforts to persuade him to have Knuck killed so he can take over permanently. Further tensions are stirred up by Paddo’s money laundering sting with a rival gang and the machinations of Knuck’s wife (Simone Kessell).
It’s a crude, loud, unengaging picture that mistakes noise for action and drama and pivots around a brutal but oddly dull extended pissing contest between a pair of charisma-light leading men. McCallum papers over narrative cracks with sex scenes and “shocking” plot turn that feel more contrived and callous than genuinely startling. In the substitute Lady Macbeth role, Abbey Lee has a significant screen presence, indicating a bright future despite the weaknesses of the material. All but the most faithful follower of SOA rip-offs would be better off setting up a pair of big-screen, adjacent flat-screens, one showing your favourite version of MACBETH, and the other screening the AIP biker movie of your choice.