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Thursday , January 28 2021

‘Outsider’ dark sagebrush saga

The Outsider

Adkins dominates every scene

Country music star Trace Adkins continues to carve a niche for himself, along with several notches on his six-shooter, as an imposing presence in indie Westerns with his persuasive portrayal of a tarnished lawman in “The Outsider”, an unusually dark and brooding shoot ‘em up capably directed by genre specialist Timothy Woodward Jr (“Traded”, “Hickok”).

The movie itself, a deliberately paced, pared-to-essentials oater that clocks in at a lean and mean 86 minutes, might ruffle the feathers of traditionalists — i.e., the very people usually clamoring loudest for Westerns these days — who are easily upset by salty language, coarse behavior and other worthy elements in this unrated, family-unfriendly feature. But even those folks likely will appreciate the way Woodward and screenwriter Sean Ryan have respectfully recycled conventions and archetypes from sagebrush sagas of ages past without a trace of snark or satire, and added more than a smidgen of the fatalism that fueled many of the revisionist Spaghetti Westerns.

Adkins gets a great deal of mileage from his trademark growl and hulking physicality as Marshal Walker, a small-town peacekeeper who’s begrudgingly but unshakably loyal to his son James (Kaiwi Lyman). That loyalty is sorely tested, however, when James inadvertently kills the wife of Jing Phang (John Foo), a railroad worker (and lethally effective martial artist) who isn’t nearly as forgiving as the marshal.

Strictly speaking, Adkins isn’t the hero of the piece. That role is filled partly by Foo, who speaks softly and carries a swift kick, and Sean Patrick Flanery as Chris, a cynical tracker hired to lead the marshal’s posse in a manhunt for the vengeful Jing Phang after the newly widowed railroad worker kills several other deputies with his bare hands in a barroom fracas. (Danny Trejo drops by for a fleeting cameo as a bellicose deputy who helps convince Chris that, hey, maybe he should shift his allegiance.)

But Adkins dominates every scene in which he appears, and quite a few in which he doesn’t, through dint of his ability to slow-drawl dialogue. When, early on, he walks into the aforementioned barroom and surveys the body count, he rasps: “You expect me to believe one man did this? One man? One unarmed man?” At that point, Adkins effortlessly grabs the movie and stuffs it into his pocket.

There are a few well-staged shootouts, and some brutally effective moments of hand-to-hand, foot-to-face combat. For the most part, however, “The Outsider” moves along at a portentous pace, not a swift gallop, as near-constant rainfall and Pablo Diez’s grimly evocative cinematography enhance an overall tone pitched somewhere between melancholy and mournful.

It’s almost as though Woodward and Ryan decided to pull the scenario of a ‘50s or ‘60s Hollywood Western inside-out, and focus on the undercurrents of tragic loss and implacable fate that here are allowed to reach flood level.There comes a time, however, when he looks at James and offers stern judgment: “You’re beyond saving.” Too true, but too late.


LOS ANGELES: Italian animation auteur Alessandro Rak, best known for Neapolitan mob fable “Cinderella The Cat” which launched from Venice in 2017 and competed at Annecy in 2018, is in production on “The Walking Liberty”, a tale partly inspired by the optimistic spirit reflected in the eponymous silver half dollar issued by the United States Mint from 1916 to 1947.

As seen in this exclusive trailer/mood clip given to Variety, Rak’s new feature — which he has been working on for over a year — is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the jungle has covered up almost everything but not a movie screen playing Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator”.

The film takes its cue from “the politically destructive populist movements that we are seeing cropping up all over Europe,” Rak said. It is told “through the eyes” of two characters, a 15-year-old girl named Yaya, who has elements of the sailor protagonist of Hugo Pratt’s “Corto Maltese”, albeit in a female incarnation, and a tall mentally impaired giant called Lennie who is twice her age.

“They are both innocents with no parents,” said Rak who specified that the narrative never clarifies what the origins of the disruption are.

“The idea is to tell the story of two people who are born in a new world and don’t have a direct connection to history,” he said.

As for the choice of “The Walking Liberty” as the film’s title, Rak said what he liked “is the word liberty” and the fact that the eponymous silver half-dollar “made history for various reasons including that it became the coin of choice to perform magic tricks.”

Also that the title brings to mind “The Walking Dead”, he added. But that while that show is “about an apocalyptic future that is horrible” we like the idea of one “that is tied to the idea of future freedom,” Rak noted.

“The Walking Liberty” is being produced by Rak’s regular shingle, Naples-set Mad Entertainment with some funding from the Italian Culture Ministry. Mad is in advanced talks for a French producer to come on board as well as a sales agent. The delivery date is still uncertain. (RTRS)

By Joe Leydon

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