A boisterously Tarantinoesque mash-up of cliches, archetypes and bodacious craziness in the tradition of Southern-fried ’60s and ’70s drive-in fodder, “The Baytown Outlaws” is the sort of cartoonishly violent and swaggeringly non-PC concoction that defines guilty pleasure for many genre fans. Mainstream auds doubtless will keep their distance during the film’s limited theatrical run. But the pic could generate enthusiastic word of mouth from those impressed by its brassy trashiness, and wind up earning a tidy profit through assorted home-screen showcases.
Despite the prominent billing given Billy Bob Thornton and Eva Longoria, the real stars of the piece are Clayne Crawford, Daniel Cudmore and Travis Fimmel, strapping young thesps cast as proficiently fierce redneck siblings who, despite strong indications to the contrary in early scenes, aren’t nearly as dumb and/or heartless as they seem.
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Heavily armed and utterly amoral, Brick (Crawford), Lincoln (Cudmore) and McQueen Oodie (Fimmel) earn their keep as clandestine assassins for Sheriff Henry Millard (Andre Braugher), a small-town Alabama lawman who maintains a low crime rate in his county by having the brothers dispose of drug dealers, gang members and similarly troublesome riffraff.
It’s a steady gig, but the pay isn’t great (and, evidently, there are no dental benefits). So the Oodie brothers are receptive when beautiful stranger Celeste (Longoria) offers them $25,000 if they’ll retrieve Rob (Thomas Sangster), her handicapped godson, from her ex-husband, good-ol’-boy druglord Carlos Lyman (Thornton), who swiped the wheelchair-bound 17-year-old in the hope of seizing his trust fund.
Rescuing Rob from Carlos’ Austin conclave turns out to be the easy part. Before they can turn the teen over to Celeste at a secluded Mississippi rendezvous location, the Oodie brothers also must cope with drop-dead-sexy biker chicks; African-American badasses in a tricked-out armored vehicle; Native American commandoes who favor bows, arrows and automatic weaponry; and an inquisitive ATF agent (Paul Wesley) who’s inconveniently curious about that low crime rate in Sheriff Millard’s neck of the woods.
Working from a tongue-in-cheeky script he co-wrote with Griffin Hood, first-time feature helmer Barry Battles is savvy enough to know when to push the pedal to the metal, and when to slow down just long enough to let his game players strut their stuff. Although he occasionally relies on comicbook-style illustrations to enhance his storytelling, Hood smartly refrains from nonstop over-the-top excess. As a result, the sporadic semi-serious moments — which are markedly more plentiful in the pic’s final third — come off as, if not affecting, then not entirely absurd.
Thornton, who hasn’t gotten quite this down-and-dirty in a genre pastiche since the notorious “Chopper Chicks in Zombietown” (1989), takes unabashed delight in chewing scenery with unseemly gusto, most notably when Carlos promises to establish “the Walmart of bottom-dollar retail crime.” Other supporting players, including Zoe Bell as a biker chick and Michael Rapaport as a cretinous bartender, are equally in sync with the overall tone of almost-anything-goes B-movie tomfoolery.
It should be noted that the pic’s tech values — especially Dave McFarland’s stylized color lensing — are appreciably slicker than what typically sufficed in ’60s and ’70s drive-in fare.