18th Feb2019

‘Outlaws’ DVD Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Ryan Corr, Abbey Lee, Simone Kessell, Josh McConville, Matt Nable, Aaron Pederson | Written by Matt Nable | Directed by Stephen McCallum


The debut feature from Australian director Stephen McCallum, this gritty biker gang thriller achieves a certain level of sweaty intensity and largely pulls off its Shakespearean parallels, though there are a few wobbles along the way.

Set in present-day Australia, the film centres on biker gang member Paddo (Ryan Corr), who has taken over leadership of the Copperheads Motorcycle Club during club president Knuck’s (screenwriter Matt Nable) three year stint in jail. When Paddo’s learning disabled brother Skink (Josh McConville) steals heroin from rival gang the Devils, Paddo brokers a mutually beneficial agreement with gang leader Sugar (Aaron Pederson) in return for his brother’s life.

However, when Knuck gets out of jail, he refuses to honour the deal, putting both Skink and Paddo’s lives in danger. Meanwhile, Paddo’s ambitious girlfriend Katrina (The Neon Demon’s Abbey Lee) goes full Lady Macbeth and attempts to cajole him into killing Knuck and taking over as Copperheads president.

Bulked-up former rugby player Nable (who played Ra’s al-Ghul on Arrow) is genuinely terrifying as Knuck, while Corr delivers an intriguingly balanced performance as Paddo, who’s probably too sensitive for the biker game, yet still manages to earn the respect of his gang.

Similarly, Lee convincingly portrays Katrina’s lust for power and respect in her own right, and her chemistry with Corr is nicely handled, while Pederson is suitably chilling as Sugar and McConville finds a measure of sympathy for terminal screw-up Skink. There’s also strong support from Simone Kessell as Knuck’s wife Hayley, who’s been holding the fort alongside Paddo in his absence.

McCallum orchestrates a number of powerful moments and there’s a palpable sense of impending tragedy that befits its overtly Shakespearean ambitions (aside from the obvious Macbeth parallel, there are shades of King Lear too). It’s also fascinating to view the film in terms of a portrait of poor management decisions, particularly in the idea that Knuck rejects what is demonstrably a good idea for the gang purely in an attempt to re-establish his own authority.

Without giving anything away, the film’s ending is also worthy of note – having embraced several of the expected clichés up until that point, the actual finale doesn’t play out quite the way you expect, which works well.

That said, the film has its fair share of problems elsewhere. There’s a frustrating element to the script, in that it frequently touches on particular themes and ideas (such as a subplot involving Knuck having gained a taste for sex with men in prison), but backs away from exploring them in any detail. In many ways, Knuck’s sexuality and perceived masculinity would have made a much more interesting story, had it been at the centre of the film – instead, it’s reduced to the status of a convenient plot mechanism.

On a similar note, the script never manages to illustrate the actual appeal of the gang – it’s baffling, for example, why Sam Parsonson’s weedy-looking lawyer character decides to become a new recruit, or just what he would get out of being in the gang. It’s also odd that, for a biker gang movie, there’s surprisingly little in the way of actual motorbiking – there’s not even a decent chase scene.

Ultimately, Outlaws isn’t on the level of the likes of Animal Kingdom and Snowtown, but it’s watchable enough on its own terms, even if there’s a distinct sense of missed opportunity for something deeper.

*** 3/5

Outlaws is out now on DVD and VOD from Altitude.


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