Chris Pine stars in Netflix's "Braveheart"-style battle epic

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The muddy, bloody "Outlaw King" opens with an audacious 9-minute shot that sets the stakes for this grandiose — and often over-the-top — 14th century Scottish epic.  

Director David Mackenzie, who also co-wrote the screenplay, spins his camera around a tent where Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) is forced to kneel before England's King Edward (Stephen Dillane). He then follows Bruce outside, where Prince Edward II ("Dunkirk's" Billy Howle, sporting the world's worst bowl cut) engages Bruce in a bit of swordplay. Pulling back, Mackenzie reveals a gigantic catapult, and has Edward cut its rope, flinging a massive flaming projectile at a castle in the distance. So much happens in this dizzying single take shot that it's almost overwhelming, but it sets up the major players, as well as the tone for what follows.

"Outlaw King" follows Bruce's rise to power as the King of Scots and the rebellion he leads against England's occupation of Scotland. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays James Douglas, one of Bruce's fellow Scot warriors, while Florence Pugh ("Lady Macbeth") is Bruce's bride.

This is big, bold, "Braveheart"-worthy stuff, though Mackenzie lightens the tone a shade by allowing a bit of camp to shine through. When Douglas stops Prince Edward and his cavalry along a trail and invites him into battle the next day, the Prince scoffs, "these people," like "Clueless' " Cher Horowitz delivering a choice, "as if!" 

That final battle is bloodcurdling and violent, worthy of as big a screen as you can see it on. "Outlaw King" is an old-school history lesson, but Mackenzie ("Hell or High Water") presents it with a modern flare, and its themes of a small group overthrowing the ruling power are especially timely today. 

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Outlaw King'

GRADE: B

Rated R for sequences of brutal war violence, some sexuality, language and brief nudity

Running time: 121 minutes

On Netflix

 

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