J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Baytown Outlaws: Necks Don’t Get Much Redder Than This


Speak & Spells must have trouble with the word subtle, because the Oodie Brothers are clearly not familiar with it.  It doesn’t seem to mean much to director-co-writer Barry Battles either, but he certainly knows his Skynyrd and how to stage an over-the-top shootout.  Viewers are in store for plenty of redneck exploitation action when Battles’ The Baytown Outlaws (trailer here) opens this Friday in New York.

The Oodies are good at killing.  Of course, it helps not having to worry about getting collared.  They are the secret weapon of Sheriff Henry Millard, who turns the boys on loose on every other deadbeat criminal in his county, thereby keeping the crime rate impressively low.  As the film opens, they have made a minor mistake, wiping out the wrong house full of thugs.  It is nothing Millard cannot cover-up, but there is a witness.  Duly impressed, Celeste Martin and her Daisy Dukes hire the Oodie Brother to whack her gangster ex-husband Carlos Lyman and safely return her godson, Rob.  Complications and bodies ensue.

It turns out Rob is basically a human bearer bond.  Presumably developmentally disabled and confined to a wheelchair, Rob will soon inherit a sizable trust fund, which will be controlled by his guardian.  He is more than the Oodies bargained for.  Nonetheless, they quickly warm to the lad in scenes that play like the Sons of Anarchy version of Savannah Smiles.  Have no fear, sentimentality is not Baytown’s priority.  Frankly, one gets the feeling the set erupted in laughter as soon as Battles yelled cut on the film’s big emotional scenes.

Baytown really bares its soul when five suggestively clad biker assassin babes tangle with the Oodies.  Ranging somewhere between a Southern-fried indie and an outright midnight movie, Battles goes for defiantly violent laughs and gets almost as many as Django Unchained in about half the time. 

This is no classic, but everyone is game, particularly Billy Bob Thornton, obviously enjoying every word of Lyman’s shamelessly politically incorrect dialogue.  Although he never speaks a syllable (relying instead on said Speak & Spell), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus in the X-Men franchise) has a real physical presence as Lincoln Oodie.  Clayne Crawford and Travis Fimmel also exhibit admirable energy as Brick and McQueen Oodie, respectively (but sometimes it is rather hard to tell them apart).  Eva Longoria does not have much to do beyond wear her short shorts and shoot a few guns, but Martin is still some of her best screen work, maybe ever.

Eschewing the faux vintage grindhouse look done to death in films like Hobo with a Shotgun, Battles keeps the meathead fodder snappy.  The occasional animated snippets lend Baytown additional character.  An entertaining guilty pleasure, The Baytown Outlaws is recommended for those who can appreciate its slightly sleazy charms when it opens this Friday (1/11) in New York at the Cinema Village.

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