More Than Just Film
They say revenge is dehumanising and degrading but try watching Outlaw.
Written and directed by Nick Love and starring Danny Dyer, the closest thing I could compare it to was catching a dose of the Norovirus (minus the post-puking euphoria).
And I’ve carried the horror with me ever since.
This is problematic for Dyer Diary as Danny places his collaborations with Love above all his other film work and is especially proud of his performances as football hooligan Tommy Johnson in The Football Factory (2004) and wanna-be gangster Frankie in The Business (2005), probably his two most iconic roles. So to ignore these would be crazy and to watch them with a chip on my shoulder would make me just another sad internet muppet. So, for my art, I’m drawing a line under this whole sorry affair and will watch these films with an open mind.
But only after I get Outlaw out of my system and to do that I must get even.
Back in the late 00’s, Outlaw was a brash and brazen geezer of a movie – with a line of charlie banged up its hooter it was itching to jolt us out of our collective stupor and reveal, Matrix-style, just how broken Britain actually was. It would be, declared Love, the most important film of the next five years.
As it turned out, time wasn’t quite so kind. After years of critical mauling and general ridicule, 2014 finds Outlaw alone, unloved and waking each morning in urine soaked clothing. The Films of Danny Dyer, a book which falls just short of declaring Love/Dyer to be a British Scorsese/De Niro, labels Outlaw a cinematic disaster. Even Danny D himself doesn’t pull any punches. He admits that Love got this one badly wrong and suspects he tried to appease his critics with a “serious” and “profound” film (instead of making something fun and exciting).
My thunder was stolen. According to my moral compass, if I was to lay into this wretched and pathetic film then surely I would be the real monster.
So be it. I’ve got a score to settle.
In a nutshell: An AK-47 wielding Sean Bean rampaging through the streets of London wasting bad guys, that’s got to be great, yeah?
No. It’s actually the worst film I’ve ever seen. And I don’t say this lightly.
Paratrooper Danny Bryant (Sean Bean) returns home from service to find Britain an even bigger war-zone than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Unbeknown to him, he had actually been transplanted into the mind of Richard Littlejohn by evil scientists, a place where characters say things like “Get AIDS or jump on a bus with a rucksack full of explosives, the government will dish you out a free car these days” and others listen and agree passionately. Bryant sulks in his room until he decides to form a rag-tag army of vigilantes to shoot shop-lifters, string-up pediatricians and make Britain
white great again.
‘At last’, cries the audience, ‘maybe something will happen at last. I could feel myself slipping into a coma.’ And lo, the audience slipped into a coma as all this rag-tag vigilante army do is have arguments in a sports hall (they don’t even get round to doing star jumps) before going off in a big huff and staring into the middle distance, all moody like. This goes on for several lifetimes until I hear something snap inside my mind. Is it me or are the characters really running around the woods in a shoot-out which makes the paint-balling episode of Spaced look like Apocalypse Now? Somebody hold me.
And then Sean Bean’s character dies.
At best Outlaw is clichéd and derivative, at worst it lifts characters and situations straight out of much better revenge films much in the same way that the likes of Epic Movie/Scary Movie do. Red Road is the obvious ‘source’ of Nick Love’s “inspiration”, but where that resolves the isolating nature of violence with compassion and empathy, Outlaw suggests countering the emasculating effects of violent crime by shooting people in the face.
Danny Dyer, about to shoot someone in the face.
It should have been Death Wish x First Blood with a sprinkling of Long Good Friday for good measure.
But instead it looked like shit, it was mind-numbingly tedious and its hate-filled world-view made me feel physically sick.
Fuck you, Outlaw.
How’s Danny? He’s terrible, but no more terrible than anything else.
What’s it really about? “It was a film about a culture, it was a film about a generation, it was a post…it was the end of Blair, it was a comment on society and stuff, you know what I mean?”, that’s what it was about, according to…
The Nick Love & Danny Dyer DVD commentary: Despite its inherent terribleness, Outlaw has given something back to popular culture. Five minutes of highlights from the DVD commentary were posted on youtube and quickly became something of a comedy sensation.
Love is the dominant partner, railing against critics and movie-goers who didn’t grasp the importance or significance of his film whilst Dyer interjects with little golden nuggets such as “no stars, I’ve never seen no stars before, the fucking broadsheet cunts”. Love reasons that everyone hated his film as it was too intricate for them to keep up with and they were too drunk to properly study it. He concludes by attacking the real villain of the piece…
That’s right, the true indicator that something is rotten in the state of Blighty is Mr Bean 2 aka Mr Bean’s Holiday making £6 million on release. As Danny sadly surmises, “we’re in the wrong game”.
Like all great comedy, the DVD commentary is laced with sadness as it could well be the last thing Nick Love and Danny Dyer ever do together. Back in 2006, Zig-Zag Productions offered Danny the chance to present a series of documentaries which would play on his hard man image (cultivated by Love’s films). He knew it would be shallow television and he’d end up looking stupid but, after a career of being paid peanuts and watching the likes of Vinnie Jones command massive fees, Danny swallowed his pride took the £200,000 on offer.
The Real Football Factory, The Real Football Factory International and Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men were all huge hits for Bravo but went a long way to cementing Dyer’s current status as a bit of a joke. In the eyes of Nick Love, Danny Dyer was no longer an actor and stopped hiring him for his films. Despite a few attempts at peace-making, Dyer admits that things now seem too far gone.
Writing about the growing cult surrounding the youtube clip, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian hoped the Derek and Clive routine wouldn’t obscure the fact that Love is a real filmmaker whose other films deserve to be seen. He goes as far to say that some of the kudos that has been heaped on Shane Meadows should have gone to Love.
This does raise an interesting issue which I’ll hopefully address over the coming weeks, why have so many people (myself included) taken so much pleasure from laughing at Nick Love? I had personally assumed that all his films terrible but if it turns out that Outlaw is his only duffer then I for one will give credit where it’s due. Maybe Dyer is on to something when he suggests that the broadsheets and media are biased against films which, as Love admits, are tailored for working class audiences.
Over the next few Dyer Diary entries, we can see for ourselves.