Director: Timothy Woodward Jr
Cast: Trace Adkins, Jon Foo, Kaiwi Lyman, Sean Patrick Flanery, Danny Trejo, Nelli Tsay
Watch The Outsider online in the UK: Currently unavailable
Directed by Timothy Woodward Jr (The Final Wish), this low-budget revenge western is set in a small town in 1860s America, where Chinese worker Jing Phang (TV’s Rush Hour) is helping to build the railroad. When his beautiful, pregnant wife (Nelli Tsay) catches the eye of scumbag lawman James Walker (Kaiwi Lyman), tragedy rapidly follows, leaving an embittered Jing hellbent on violent revenge.
After Jing kills a gang of men in a bar, he attracts the attention of Marshal Walker (country legend Trace Adkins), who also happens to be James’ father. Walker assembles a posse to track down Jing – including expert tracker Chris (Sean Patrick Flanery) and mercenary Carlos (an underused Danny Trejo) – but he finds himself increasingly torn between blood and justice, especially when he learns the full nature of his son’s crime.
As revenge westerns go, this gets off to a promising start, establishing a suitably despicable villain, a horrific crime and a lead character that is unusual for the genre. The early fight scene – in which an unarmed Jing takes out multiple assailants in a bar – also promises plenty of exciting action. However, once Adkins’ Walker is introduced, the film quickly becomes introspective and repetitive, choosing to spend much more time with Walker and his son than with Jing, who gets bafflingly little screen time as a result.
Adkins has a authoritative screen presence, with a distinctive voice that makes him a compelling character. Lyman is equally good as the repulsive, entitled racist-slash-rapist and you don’t have to look too far to see contemporary echoes in his toxic behaviour. Foo makes a strong impression too, but he’s curiously underserved, almost as if the film loses faith in its own premise. Also, having earned points for its atypical male lead, was it really necessary for the film to give him a white ally in the shape of Flanery’s character, especially when he ends up eating into so much of Foo’s screen time?
Alongside the curious lack of action, the film is also let down by the fact that too many scenes are set at night, with the result that it’s often difficult to tell exactly what’s going on. Woodward Jr is also guilty of over-using his rain machine, although, to be fair, once you pay for it, you might as well get your money’s worth.
In fairness to the production, they had their own unique set of troubles when the Malibu Woolsey Fires destroyed the iconic Paramount Ranch, halfway through shooting. Perhaps that explains all the night shoots, because the locations were no longer up to standard. In the end, The Outsider does enough to satisfy the basic demands of the genre and is never less than watchable, but ultimately promises more than it delivers.
The Outsider is not currently available on UK VOD.