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American Outlaws

Colin Farrell as the worst Jesse James in film historyTHE DINGUS PROJECT
Jesse James in Film #12

Colin Farrell gets the Dingus Project vote for the worst Jesse James in American film, historically speaking. This is the Jesse James of dime novels, a comic book superhero who can dodge bullets. The movie, however, takes one in the gut. Bad script, bad acting, bad everything.


American Outlaws (2001)

Mix Dukes of Hazard, the Wild Wild West and Batman to get the gist of this action-packed Hollywood melodrama. Those films, however, were all better than American Outlaws. Hopefully, this is a comedy. If so, it’s funny. If not, it’s simply ridiculous.

American Outlaws (2001) on the Dingus ProjectColin Farrel opens the film by riding directly into the fire of a Union gattling gun, shooting four pistols. He comes off unscathed and takes down an entire battalion. Back home after the Civil War he discovers that his neighbor (actually Jesse’s cousin) Zee has blossomed into a blonde Baywatch babe. (Ali Larter is best known for the Final Destination series and the TV seers "Heroes"). When Cole Younger (Scott Caan of Oceans 11,12,13) is almost hanged for shooting two railroad men for trying to steal his farm, the James boys do what comes naturally in Hollywood. They stampede a herd of cattle through town and liberate their friend from the gallows.

Clearly the only research done on this film was watching a few earlier Jesse James films. Alan Pinkerton, played by Tim Dalton, shows up way too early and seems to understand he is in the wrong movie. Nathaniel Archand is equally embarrassed as a token Indian sidekick Comanche Tom. The only authentic character is a fire-breathing Zerelda James (Kathy Bates) who wants her boys to "kill Yankees and say your prayers." But Ma James dies early, and so does the film.

The plot is the same old Robin Hood legend promulgated by early dime novels with no basis in fact. Again the expanding railroad company is the bogeyman and Jesse James is compelled by his conscience to murder everyone who tries to take away his family farm. The movie is little more than an excuse to exploit Farrel as a beefcake-bad boy. Even his romantic scenes with Zee are so bad that they make Rob Lowe’s Jesse James seem downright endearing. The acting is so universally bad, the musical score so inappropriately superhero-style, that American Outlaws is best watched with the sound off. It is available from for one penny. Think twice before you spend that kind of money.

Dingus project

Other than a few good stunts and well-defined physiques, the movie is unwatchable. As to the danger of presenting a killer as a hero, we can only quote the real Frank James. After seeing a theatrical version of his life in a 1902 play called "The James Boys of Missouri", Frank tried to close the show. It was a bad influence on children he said.

"It’s injurious to the youth of the country," Frank told the Kansas City Star. "What will the effect [be] on these young men to see train robbers and outlaws glorified?"

Copyright © J. Dennis Robinson / All rights reserved.





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