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American Outlaws

Jesse James.

The name has been heard a million times my millions of people, yet no-one really knows who he is. Legend and folklore have painted him as the perfect American outlaw, the sultan of the six-shooter, the king of charisma; one day, we knew a film would be made, that would set the record straight and present Jesse James as the man he really was.

And this film isn't it.

As this film would have us believe, Jesse James was a fun-loving joker with a sneaky smile, quick with gun, and irresistible to the ladies. It's Jesse James as cowboy movies have always made him out to be. But this time he's different! Now he has a dodgy Wild West/Dublin accent!

In fact all of this film has shown up in every other film from the genre. The way I see it, you can look at it as "Young Guns 3" - each of the James-Younger Gang members can easily correspond to one the Regulators (They even have a token Indian tracker, and they call themselves the "Rangers" at one point), there's a guitar rock soundtrack straight from the eighties, and it even has Terry O'Quinn in it (one of the major stars of Young Guns). Or you can look at it as "Jesse James: Prince Of Thieves", complete with over-the-top stunts, an evil British villain and a hero who can't seem to master the accent. Oh, alright, Colin Farrell's not that bad. At least Timothy Dalton took the hint from his last attempts at an American twang and sticks to his guns - so to speak - and talks with his welsh accent.

Well, the plot is that the James-Younger gang, formed from the remains of southern ex-rangers after the war, go around robbing the banks that hold the cash for the evil railroad that's threatening the farms of the good people of Missouri. Or something. Hey, it's a plot, not like you need that when you can just blow something up.

The rest of the cast is actually alright - Ali Larter makes a nice romantic lead, Gabriel Macht makes a great Kiefer Sutherland... I mean, Frank James, and the excellent Scott Caan steals every scene he's in as the gang's co-leader, Cole Younger.

The script is awful - every cliché is used, and reused, but there's a lot of funny lines that help to punch up the poor, poor script; the debate over why it's called the "James-Younger" gang and not the "Younger-James" gang is simple but hilarious.

In short, it's one of the worst pieces of Hollywood handling history I've seen recently, the script is awful and it's a film that makes you wonder why you're watching it. But it's very, very enjoyable because of just how bad it is. This film seems to believe just what its poster says: bad is good again.

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