I can't help it, underdog movies just appeal to the deepest part of myself. American Outlaws reportrays Jesse James as an attractive young romantic underdog hero who is both admired and feared. It gets so that people like being robbed by him because of his charm and charisma, they just want to be near the man.An evil industrialist is using the military to intimidate pioneers in Missouri into giving up their land for the railroad.
Jesse (Colin Farrel) and his brother Frank (Gabrial Macht) just got back from the (civil) war and all they can think about is farming. They weren't planning on having to defend their farms from the Yankee soldiers. Okay, so right off, I'm actually rooting for Confederate underdogs. I don't know why homesteaders in Libety, Missouri were even bothering with the war since they had no real assets to protect. Maybe it was just a matter of pride.
The industrialist, Thaddeus Rains (Harris Yulin) has hired a goon named Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) to act as his private security emmisary. When Thaddeus allows his hired thugs to torch the town of Liberty, Jesse and Franks mom (Kathy Bates) is killed. Jesse decides to target the railroad by robbing its money being held in banks across Missouri and blowing up the tracks.
Pinkerton is then required to wage a war against the James/Younger gang but Pinkerton admires Jesse for his brute courage and skill as much as he loathes his small-minded, inhuman employer.
Thankfully, director Les Mayfield shied away from macho and went for "new male" so the obligatory romantic sub-plot actually makes the female love interest, Zee (Ali Mimms) more of an equal than a conquest and even gays get a dose of respect when the scene where Frank and Cole (Scott Caan) are joking about the "guy that Cole screwed" who was actually a transvestite didn't demonize the transvestite or Cole but was just laughed about as "one of those things". Its no surprise that bit snuck into the Roderick Taylors screenplay, who was given his entrance into the entertainment world as a recording artist by notoriously homo David Geffen.
There was a passel of bear types at the screening who enjoyed the beefy male bonding as much as I did.Kathy Bates plays a hilarious "praise the lord and pass the ammunition" homesteader. Lots of cute guys hanging out shirtless and being charming and witty while robbing banks and carrying on, god bless their hearts. We need to see more of Gabriel Macht.