Director Barry Battles’ feature film directorial debut, the self-styled “Southern Whip-Ass Extravaganza” (though later promos for the film have lowered that by a very noticeable decibel or two) pits three violent Alabama brothers against Billy Bob Thornton, playing a Texas crime kingpin name Carlos. Not just any Texas crime kingpin, Carlos happens to have a legion of badass (and amusingly, themed) killers on his phone’s Contacts List. When the brothers bust into Carlos’ crib and abducts a teenager name Rob (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) at the behest of Celeste (Eva Longoria), the boys get more than they bargain for. First of all, Carlos has, you know, that Contacts List mentioned before, and Celeste neglected to tell the boys that Rob is confined to a wheelchair and is mentally challenged. Complications, as they say, ensue.
Opening with a violent, over-the-top gunbattle between the Oodie Brothers — played with smelly verve by the trio of Clayne Crawford, Travis Fimmel, and Daniel Cudmore — and some Mexican gangbangers, “The Baytown Outlaws” is liable to offend some viewers. That seems to be the point, though the script (co-written by Battles) has plenty of surprises up its sleeve to soften our heroes. Yes, the Oodie Brothers are the heroes of this piece, despite the fact that they are loud and proud Alabama rednecks with more guts and spit than much else. They hightail it to Texas to get Rob only after Celeste promises them a nice pay day, something the boys are in short supply of these days. The great Andre Braugher co-stars as a local Sheriff who shares a history with the Oodies, a secret that visiting G-Man Reese (“The Vampire Diaries'” Paul Wesley) is trying to uncover.
Much of “The Baytown Outlaws” follows the Oodies as they attempt to make their way out of Texas with Rob, wheelchair and all. Though at first flabbergasted by this twist, the boys put on their big boys pants and soldier on anyway. The Oodies are Brick (Clayne Crawford), the oldest; McQueen (Travis Fimmel), the youngest; and the giant Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore), the lost Oodie who was eventually found, and who speaks with a voice box. While Brick and McQueen bicker endlessly (perhaps to make up for Lincoln’s silence) to and from their Texas gig, Carlos has dispatched some serious killers after them. Serinda Swan and Zoe Bell play two of five deadly biker chicks that take the first shot at the boys. I guess they’ve never dealt with small-town rednecks before. Too bad for these ladies.
“The Baytown Outlaws” is ridiculously violent at times, but it’s a mixture of cartoon mayhem and gritty carnage. Starting as all fun and games and continuing on that road for some time, things eventually get serious when some “Road Warriors” types (though McQueen amusingly refers to them as “Waterworld” — I guess he got his post-apocalyptic movies mixed up) show up. Eva Longoria doesn’t have much to do except look good in short denim cut-offs, which she certainly pulls off with aplomb. And I suspect Billy Bob Thornton, who only appears in exactly two locations throughout the film, knocked “The Baytown Outlaws” out in a day or two as a favor to someone. Mind you, he’s still really fun in the role, which goes to show you how talented the guy is.
The ironic thing about “The Baytown Outlaws” is that it starts out as this in-your-face film that wants to offend everyone, but somehow still ends up being, go figure, politically correct. These PC moments occur throughout the film, but is at its most awkward when Natalie Martinez shows up as an illegal immigrant who the boys run across later in the film. Battles and company balance out these out-of-nowhere tangents with other absurdities, like a gang of Native American bikers that scalp their victims and literally bring bow and arrows to a gunfight. It’s absolutely bizarre, and perfectly captures the schizophrenic nature of “The Baytown Outlaws”.
I can see “The Baytown Outlaws” becoming a cult hit with action fans, similar to how Troy Duffy’s “Boondock Saints” found an audience on home video and cable after a disastrous theatrical release. The Oodies are great, vibrant characters with a lot of promise, and the ending of “Outlaws” certainly sets them up as the same type of dangerous vigilantes with potential further adventures, similar to what the Boondock boys have become. The film is currently available to rent via Video on Demand, and opens in select theaters January 2013. “The Baytown Outlaws” can be overblown and at times inconsistent, but it’s always fun and a hell of a good time.
Barry Battles (director) / Barry Battles, Griffin Hood (screenplay)
CAST: Andre Braugher … Sherriff Henry Millard
Paul Wesley … Reese
Daniel Cudmore … Lincoln Oodie
Travis Fimmel … McQueen Oodie
Clayne Crawford … Brick Oodie
Thomas Brodie-Sangster … Rob
Eva Longoria … Celeste
Billy Bob Thornton … Carlos
Zoe Bell … Rose
Michael Rapaport … Lucky
Natalie Martinez … Ariana