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.
by Derek Armstrong review