Film Review: ‘The Outsider’

Trace Adkins looms large in a dark and brooding sagebrush saga with a healthy dose of Spaghetti Western fatalism.

Timothy Woodward Jr.
Jon Foo, Trace Adkins, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kaiwi Lyman, Danny Trejo.
Release Date:
Jun 14, 2019

Running time: 86 MIN.

Country music star Trace Adkins continues to carve a niche for himself, along with several notches on his six-shooter, as an imposing presence in indie Westerns with his persuasive portrayal of a tarnished lawman in “The Outsider,” an unusually dark and brooding shoot ’em up capably directed by genre specialist Timothy Woodward Jr. (“Traded,” “Hickok”).

The movie itself, a deliberately paced, pared-to-essentials oater that clocks in at a lean and mean 86 minutes, might ruffle the feathers of traditionalists — i.e., the very people usually clamoring loudest for Westerns these days — who are easily upset by salty language, coarse behavior and other R-worthy elements in this unrated, family-unfriendly feature. But even those folks likely will appreciate the way Woodward and screenwriter Sean Ryan have respectfully recycled conventions and archetypes from sagebrush sagas of ages past without a trace of snark or satire, and added more than a smidgen of the fatalism that fueled many of the revisionist Spaghetti Westerns.

Adkins gets a great deal of mileage from his trademark growl and hulking physicality as Marshal Walker, a small-town peacekeeper who’s begrudgingly but unshakably loyal to his son James (Kaiwi Lyman), an unstable dirtbag with a taste for rough sex, because he promised his late wife that he’d always look after their errant son. That loyalty is sorely tested, however, when James rapes and inadvertently kills the wife of Jing Phang (John Foo), a railroad worker (and lethally effective martial artist) who isn’t nearly as forgiving as the marshal.

Strictly speaking, Adkins isn’t the hero of the piece. That role is filled partly by Foo, who speaks softly and carries a swift kick, and Sean Patrick Flanery as Chris, a cynical tracker hired to lead the marshal’s posse in a manhunt for the vengeful Jing Phang after the newly widowed railroad worker kills several other deputies with his bare hands in a barroom fracas. (Danny Trejo drops by for a fleeting cameo as a bellicose deputy who helps convince Chris that, hey, maybe he should shift his allegiance.)

But Adkins dominates every scene in which he appears, and quite a few in which he doesn’t, through dint of his ability to slow-drawl dialogue with the authority of an Old Testament prophet. When, early on, he walks into the aforementioned barroom and surveys the body count, he rasps: “You expect me to believe one man did this? One man? One unarmed man?” At that point, Adkins effortlessly grabs the movie and stuffs it into his pocket.

There are a few well-staged shootouts, and some brutally effective moments of hand-to-hand, foot-to-face combat. For the most part, however, “The Outsider” moves along at a portentous pace, not a swift gallop, as near-constant rainfall and Pablo Diez’s grimly evocative cinematography enhance an overall tone pitched somewhere between melancholy and mournful.

It’s almost as though Woodward and Ryan decided to pull the scenario of a ’50s or ’60s Hollywood Western inside-out, and focus on the undercurrents of tragic loss and implacable fate that here are allowed to reach flood level. Adkins’ marshal repeatedly prays for God’s forgiveness as he goes to extremes while trying to protect his son from Jing Phang’s righteous anger. There comes a time, however, when he looks at James and offers stern judgment: “You’re beyond saving.” Too true, but too late.

Film Review: 'The Outsider'

Reviewed online, Houston, June 13, 2018. Running time: 86 MIN.

Production: A Cinedigm release and presentation of a Status Media & Entertainment production in association with Bondit Media Capital. Producers: Timothy Woodward Jr., Lauren de Normandie, Johnny Cleveland. Executive producers: Matthew Helderman, Luke Taylor, Joe Listhaus, Patrick DePeters.

Crew: Director: Timothy Woodward Jr. Screenplay: Sean Ryan. Camera (color): Pablo Diez: Editor: Morgan Halsey. Music: Samuel Joseph Smythe.

With: Jon Foo, Trace Adkins, Sean Patrick Flanery, Kaiwi Lyman, Danny Trejo.

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' Review: Tom

    Film Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home'

    As the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be released after the shoot-the-works finale of the “Avengers” saga, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” gets to test-drive a crucial question of blockbuster culture, if not movie aesthetics: What does it feel like to watch a Marvel film in a post-Avengers world? Is there anything left [...]

  • Wild Treasures of China

    France's ZED, China's CCTV9 Join Forces on Docu Series 'Wild Treasure of China'

    ZED, the Paris-based production company, is joining forces with CCTV9, the factual channel of the Chinese public broadcaster, to produce “Wild Treasure of China,” a 4K-lensed wildlife documentary series. Lensed in the wild landscape of China, the series will shed light on rare species which are repopulating these areas. More Reviews TV Review: 'The Loudest [...]

  • Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina

    Picture Tree Intl. Picks Up Carolina Hellsgård's 'Sunburned' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has acquired the rights to Carolina Hellsgård’s “Sunburned,” the follow-up feature to her zombie drama “Endzeit – Ever After.” PTI will be presenting first footage from the film, currently in post-production, at this year’s German Films Previews (July 3-6). More Reviews TV Review: 'The Loudest Voice' Film Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' [...]

  • Whoopi Goldberg addresses the crowd while

    Inside World Pride's Opening Ceremony: An LGBTQ Celebration With a Tinge of Politics

    World Pride officially kicked off on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. About 8,000 people packed into the arena for a three-hour show that began with Cyndi Lauper singing her hit “True Colors.” The performance ended with a gaggle of dancing drag queens who pranced alongside Lauper as she turned the train of [...]

  • Amy Adams (left) as Lynne Cheney

    Film News Roundup: Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Sets Awards Show for Jan. 11

    In today’s film news roundup, the 2020 awards season schedule gets finalized; AFM will cover immersive content; “Murderous Trance” and “7 Days to Vegas” get acquired; and Kate Katzman has been added to “The Comeback Trail.” AWARDS DATE More Reviews TV Review: 'The Loudest Voice' Film Review: 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' The Makeup Artists & [...]

  • Disney Pandora World Of Avatar, Lake

    The Piano Guys Play 'Avatar' Theme in Disney World (Watch)

    The YouTube sensation The Piano Guys have taken a trip to the world of Pandora for a performance of the theme to “Avatar.” Shot in the bioluminescent floating forest in Disney World, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson and pianist Jon Schmidt put their spin on the score to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster. The video immerses the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content