Love it or hate it, it seems the grindhouse inspired aesthetic of sleaze and violence is here to stay. The latest straight to DVD title to take up this tradition of imitation exploitation is the brilliantly named director Barry Battles and his southern set action flick The Baytown Outlaws.
The plot concerns the Oodie Brothers; McQueen, Brick and Lincoln (Clayne Crawford,Travis Fimmel and Daniel Cudmore) who basically run roughshod over a small town with the help of the local Sheriff who adopted them as kids and make a living as bounty hunters/hitmen. After a violent and hilarious case of mistaken identity, the Oodies are hired by Celeste (Eva Longoria) to rescue her crippled god son from her crime lord ex-husband Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton). Carlos doesn’t take this lying down however, he sends a crew of violent biker chicks, road pirates and ruthless Red Indian’s after the Oodies as they try to get the kid back to Celeste.
The best thing about The Baytown Outlaws is that once you get past all the sub Tarantino bravado and style, Barry Battles’ feature directorial debut is actually a pretty confident, snarling, southern fried good time of a film. The performances help, the unknown Clayne Crawford, Travis Fimmel and Daniel Cudmore perform perfectly as three white trash losers who have a real devil-may-care attitude and their cadence and mannerisms as well as the way they communicate with each other make it easy to believe that these are three maniacs who have grown up and seen a lot together.
The dialogue constantly threatens to go self-indulgent but never quite goes whole hog. Instead Battles keeps things tight, mainly focusing on the three brothers and their hellish road trip but also manages to bring in a sub plot about the FBI closing in on the brothers and their relationship with the Sheriff but this element never feels superfluous. Billy Bob Thornton shows up looking a little bewildered as a crime boss and gets some of the best dialogue but the role feels a little bit pointless and is ultimately only there to serve a villain pulling the strings purpose.
The film certainly looks like it could be a low-budget exploitation movie from the early 80s and is reminiscent of the late Tony Scott’s most recent work with a strange yellow filter making everything look like it’s heated to 90 degrees. Battles also uses animation in the opening credits and towards the end in a pleasing manner recalling Kill Bill. The only thing that lets the film down is that because of its low-budget, it often feels like its building towards an epic action scene but then pulls back or cuts away because it doesn’t have the means to show you the carnage it wants to. One road chase with a huge truck is a good demonstration of this, the scene builds towards what should be some of the best road rage since Mad Max 2 but then chooses to cut to some action happening off-screen of which we only see the aftermath. It’s a shame and what holds the film back from greatness.
The Baytown Outlaws is a fun-filled 90 odd minutes of pure entertainment and there are worse ways to spend the beginning of 2013.