review for American Outlaws on AllMovie

American Outlaws (2001)
by Derek Armstrong review

Quite the cheery revisionist history of the life of Jesse James, the delayed release American Outlaws doubles as a Young Guns for the next generation, both in its righteous-outlaw structure and matinee-idol function. Whether the moviegoing public needs either project is doubtful. After a brief revival in the 1990s, westerns had again become a yawn by the early 21st century, especially those featuring a cast of poor man's alternatives to charismatic stars. Director Les Mayfield treats every robbery, shootout or narrow escape from the gallows as a chance for the actors to crack jokes and peddle their charm. This framework prevents the movie from developing a sense of weight or momentum, which might be okay if it were funny enough. It also entirely recasts James as an essential pacifist and darn fine gentleman to boot, a decision designed to propel Colin Farrell toward maximum heroic stardom. But Mayfield's dishonest interpretation of the character panders to the audience, undercutting Farrell and doing little for the other small-timers (Ali Larter and Scott Caan) trying to leapfrog to the next level. As the action goes, only one clever stunt along the outside of a train stakes claim to original choreography. American Outlaws was pushed back from a spring 2001 release to the dumping grounds of late August to avoid competition with Texas Rangers -- a worse disaster of a movie that ended up getting shelved for more than a year anyway.