Set in a suitably dusty nowhere town Australia, Outlaws follows the fate of Copperhead Motorcycle Club. When their president returns from a 3 year stint in prison, it’s members struggle amongst themselves for power, money, and control in the face of their reckless leader Knuck (Matt Nable, who also wrote the screenplay), who has no intention of letting the reigns go.
Having taken care of the club in Knuck’s absence, Paddo (Ryan Corr) earns the respect and camaraderie of the group, taking a far softer approach than his absent superior. Living with his girlfriend Katrina (Abbey Lee) and his dependent brother Skink, who can’t keep himself out of trouble (Josh McConville), Paddo gets caught in a web of betrayal with a rival gang leader, who threatens to kill his brother by the end of the week, unless he agrees to take Knuck out.
A difficult watch at times, Outlaws draws much of its grit and grime from the difficult subjects of Knuck’s closeted homosexuality and penchant for prison rape, as well as Skink’s manipulation through his simple-mindedness. There’s precious little joy to be found here, and every conversation between Paddo and Katrina about his potential to be leader, or their opportunity to run away, or any number of alternatives to being murdered by one President or the other reek of hopelessness.
I don’t want to make the Sons of Anarchy comparison, however I only do so because the film follows the same “good guy in a bad world” storyline (and the motorcycles) that we’ve seen a few times before, not least of all in the TV shows lead. The problem is that whilst Outlaws does a good job of keeping us watching firefights and domestic violence through our fingers, it also doesn’t really give itself time to be able to properly develop any of the characters the way they might deserve. Skink is the catalyst for everything that happens, but we don’t get to find much out about him. Even less about Katrina, who ultimately manoeuvres the entire tragic situation to her eventual advantage.
Outlaws tries it’s hardest, but ultimately only really succeeds in putting you off your dinner, and reinforcing some pretty miserable stereotype. A glum watch that leaves you wanting just a little bit more depth. Sophie Francois