Thursday Night Movie Club
American Outlaws
star rating graphic½
Release Date: August 24, 2001

Director: Les Mayfield
Colin Farrell
Scott Caan
Ali Larter
Timothy Dalton
Gabriel Macht
Will McCormack
Kathie Bates
Jesse James
Cole Younger
Zee Mimms
Alan Pinkerton
Frank James
Bob Younger
Ma James
Click on the photo to link to the Official Warner Brothers website.
American Outlaws is a rousing/fun movie that completely distorts the facts surrounding the James/Younger gang. The real Jesse James would no doubt be rolling in his grave over the things his fictional counterpart accomplishes throughout the course of this movie.

The movie begins as a band of Confederate riders is merrily riding along in search of the enemy. They are set upon by a Union division and all Hell commences to break loose. They are joined by a Confederate division that materializes out of nowhere, and the battle is on. Things don't look good for our Confederate heroes as they are pinned down by Gattling gun and cannon fire. Even sharpshooter Frank James is useless. To the rescue rides young Jesse James who provides Frank with the distraction he needs to knock out the Union troops firing the guns. Jesse takes on the entire regiment single-handedly on horse back taking out dozens of Union troops. Even the Gattling gun is useless against Jesse. (Note: I hate it in movies when trained soldiers and even modern-day SWAT teams can't hit the broadside of a barn.)

After the war ends, the James/Younger boys head back to Missouri to take up farming as they did before the war. Upon arrival at their hometown, they find that it is being occupied by Union troops who are assisting the railroad tycoons grab land. Anyone involved with Quantrell's raiders is hung after a speedy trial. The fact that the James/Younger boys rode with Quantrell is glossed over. When the robber barons approach the Youngers, Cole impulsively kills two Pinkerton agents thus reuniting the James and Youngers on a search for justice. They take the fight to the railroad tycoons by robbing their money kept in the local banks. Of course, the boys also rob everyone else's money but since they give back some of their loot to the "poor", they become "modern-day" Robin Hoods.

Click on the photo to link to the Official Warner Brothers website. The action scenes are fast, furious, fun, and rollicking. Missing are the facts that the James/Younger gang killed innocent people, women and children. The fight becomes personal when Jesse and Frank's mother is killed even though she outlived Jesse. In the famous failed raid on the Hyperion Bank that ended the James/Younger gang's rein, the only fatality/shooting is of the youngest of the Younger boys who had actually died much earlier in the conflict. None of the other Younger boys receives even a scratch.

To offset all of the violence, there is a blossoming relationship between Jesse and Zee Mimms. The two eventually marry. Not mentioned is the fact that Zee is Jesse's cousin. Oh well, all is fair in love and war.

The only humor in the movie is given to Timothy Dalton as Alan Pinkerton. Pinkerton is depicted as being every bit Jesse's equal as far as ruthlessness and daring is concerned except that Pinkerton has the law on his side. In a confrontation between Pinkerton and Jesse, Jesse realizes that he should have just killed Raines, the railroad tycoon. Pinkerton calmly replies that that is exactly what he would have done.

This movie is pure entertainment. I guess it is open season on re-dramatizing history for the sake of millions of dollars at the box office. In a few years, someone will no doubt redo "Titanic" but give the movie a happy ending as this one does. Jesse rides off into the sunset with his wife to live happily ever after while brother Frank rides with the Younger boys turning a tidy profit until its time to retire to the old folks home for retired outlaws.