Ever since the success of brilliant biker gang television series Sons of Anarchy, whenever a Hells Angels/biker gang-based film surfaces you can’t help but think of Charming Town’s finest and all the trouble they got into. And to make matters worse (or better, depending on your preference towards bikers and biker drama) it’s now got its own spin-off series in the shape of the very promising Mayans M.C. But to be fair, biker films or series are few and far between, with obvious standouts being 1969’s Dennis Hopper-starring Easy Rider, 1953’s The Wild One with Marlon Brando, Quadrophenia from 1979, and 2004’s The Motorcycle Diaries – which is more road trip movie than gritty, violent realism – so it’s not as if SOA is the be all and end all of the Hells Angels/biker sub-genre. So it’s with an open mind that we take a look at Outlaws – a new Australian-based film about the internal struggles of a biker gang – and honestly, it’s not a bad little film.
First time director Stephen McCallum tackles gritty and brutal crime drama as his film focuses on leadership struggles in a motorcycle gang. Our anti-hero in Outlaws is Paddo (Ryan Corr, Wolf Creek 2), who was charged with looking after the motorcycle club during club president Knuck’s (Matt Nable, from TV’s Arrow, and who also wrote Outlaws) stint in prison. It’s all power struggles, secrets and manipulation from then on as the thuggish Knuck attempts to restore his place as a feared motorcycle club president, despite Paddo’s attempts to set up a more legit way of earning money, and of life in general for the club by doing a deal with a rival biker gang. Add in Paddo’s drug-addled best friend (Josh McConville) and Paddo’s sexy but sly girlfriend, played by Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Neon Demon) and you have a recipe for lies, deceit, temptation and of course, violence. Which Outlaws serves up pretty effectively with Abbey Lees’ scheming character giving off a Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth vibe as she attempts to convince Paddo to stay and do whatever he has to do to take over from Knuck and eventually run the club with his lady by his side – but with her own interests ultimately at heart, so it seems.
Outlaws does have a slight low budget/exploitation feel to it, which suits the film as a whole and will please fans of the genre that may well look towards the likes of 1979’s Mad Max for gritty, hard as nails inspiration. The film itself is probably more in tune with cult biker fare such as Psychomania, The Wild Angels, Werewolves on Wheels, Stone, or more recent biker B-movies like Hell Ride, The Violent Kind, and Dear God No! than any of the aforementioned classics of the genre. But this isn’t really a bad thing as the gritty, grimy, sleazy and brutal feel of these films relates to the rebellious, misanthropic, criminal and fight-happy brotherhood that can exist within certain elements of the Hells Angels and biker gang world. Of course, that is a stereotype and not all motorcycle clubs can be lumped into one big box (a lot of biker gangs out there do good community work, believe it or not) but in terms of the genre and what fans want to see, Outlaws fits quite nicely into audience expectations and their fascination with that world. It may not offer anything new or unique but it does its job and works well enough for what it is.
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The main thing separating Outlaws from other similar themed films is the performances. Ryan Corr as the ambitious, streetwise Paddo; Matt Nable as gang president Knuck – more brawn than brains but trying to hide a secret that he fears could ruin his reputation; and the rising star that is Abbey Lee – the femme fatale whose quiet manipulation could change the club’s dynamic forever. These three characters, and actors, hold the film together, and the other cast members do decent enough jobs too, making Outlaws, while not being brilliant, a worthwhile watch. A solid start for Stephen McCallum in the director’s chair and a nice addition to the biker genre.
No extras. Which is a shame as it would have been nice to get the main cast and director’s insights into the film and its inspirations.
Outlaws is out now from Altitude Film Entertainment.