After a less-than-stellar reception at TIFF, director David Mackenzie decided to go back and cut close to 20 minutes out of his historical epic Outlaw King. Now at 137 minutes long, the film arrives on Netflix today in all its gory glory. How does this new cut hold up compared to the TIFF cut? Is an improvement at all? And does the infamous Pine peen remain?
What Is Outlaw King?
Outlaw King is the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), the King of Scots who went to war against England for control of Scotland. You know some of this story already – it was featured heavily in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. In fact, the events of Outlaw King act almost as a sequel to that film – showing the aftermath of William Wallace’s rebellion.
I saw the early cut of Outlaw King at TIFF, and came away exhausted. There was much to like – Mackenzie has a great eye, and the beautiful Scottish countryside he’s shooting certainly helps. Pine’s performance as Robert the Bruce is strong – even his accent works. And Florence Pugh makes an impression as Robert’s wife Elizabeth de Burgh. But the film was, indeed, muddled and overlong. It also often felt haphazardly edited, with scenes crashing into each other. As I wrote in my review, “The editing is…a mess – loaded with jarring smash-cuts and strange juxtapositions that come across as comical when they’re probably not supposed to.”
Could a fresh edit save Outlaw King? David Mackenzie certainly hoped so. But how did it turn out? And what’s different?
While the opening sequence of Outlaw King, in which Robert and other Scottish nobles surrender after Wallace’s rebellion, remains exactly the same as the TIFF cut, things change soon after. The original cut allowed a bit more set-up for Robert as a character. In this cut, we spent more time with him, and his several brothers. There was also a scene in which Robert grows furious while watching English soldiers raid a church, coming very close to lashing out against them, only to be talked down by his father. All of this is gone now, and the film cuts to the chase. Robert is quickly married to Elizabeth de Burgh, and seems almost indifferent to the English at first. That doesn’t last, though.
No William Wallace
In the early cut, we actually briefly saw William Wallace, the Scottish rebel made famous by Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. Wallace is on the run, and Robert stumbles upon him in the woods at one point and helps him escape. Soon after this, we learn Wallace has been captured and killed. The scene added very little to the film, and Outlaw King works better by keeping Wallace offscreen. After Robert learns of Wallace’s death, though, he decides to finally fight back against the English, even though the consequences will be dire.
One element I quite liked in the original cut was the chemistry between Pine and Pugh. While most of Pugh’s part remains intact, a few moments involving her Elizabeth de Burgh falling in love with Pine’s Robert have been cut down. This is a shame, because the actors have a wonderful rapport. On top of that, these were among the lightest moments in an otherwise gruesome, deadly-serious film – that brief levity went a long way. In the new cut, there’s never a moment where we fully accept Robert and Elizabeth are in love – their time together is very brief.
One Less Battle Sequence
There are many battles in the film. Most of the movie consists of scenes of characters hacking the hell out of each other on battlefields. Mackenzie perhaps realized he had quite enough battles for one movie, and cut one out completely. And yet, the film plays exactly the same without it, which might tell you what kind of film Outlaw King really is.
Shorter Scenes in General
The edits in this new Outlaw King aren’t what I’d call major. Instead, Mackenzie has trimmed down scenes in general. The pacing is much improved, and the chaotic feeling of the early cut is not as prevalent here. Snippets of dialogue get removed, and moments that lingered too long are tightened. One that stands out the most: a scene near the end of the film where Pine’s character sings a ballad while in prayer, only for the scene to cut to Pugh’s character singing the same ballad. In this cut, Pine’s part of the song has been removed, while Pugh’s remains in tact.
What About the Pine Peen?
I know this is all you really care about, you perverts. The biggest takeaway after Outlaw King premiered at TIFF was that the film featured a cameo appearance from Chris Pine’s penis via a full-frontal nude scene. The moment it was announced that Mackenzie was going to go back and edit the film, the first question on everyone’s mind was: what about the dick scene? Don’t worry: the Pine peen remains uncut. You’ll be able to see it – rest easy.
Is the New Outlaw King Cut Better?
This is a bit of a trick question. Is this version of the film better than the one that played at TIFF? Yes, I’d say it is. The pacing is vastly improved, and the movie doesn’t drag nearly as much as the TIFF cut. But even in this much-improved form, Outlaw King remains disappointing. The movie is unrelentingly gruesome, to the point where you start to grow numb to all the carnage. And despite Pine giving the performance his all, we never truly learn just who the hell Robert the Bruce is. His motivations seem murky, his actions are questionable, and it becomes difficult to care what happens to him. Most of the cast turn in fine work – Stephen Dillane is particularly fun as the droll, furious Edward I. But Billy Howle, as man antagonist Edward, Prince of Wales, is so obnoxiously over-the-top that he appears to be beamed in from some completely different movie. The performance is distracting to the extreme, and does the film no favors. Still, those who crave a gorgeously filmed, ultra-violent historical epic might find something worth fighting for here.
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