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Colin Farrell, liable to be a huge star in the next five years, is a handsome, devil-may-care Jesse, taking the reins between his teeth and firing with both hands, but he has little material to work with, while Timothy Dalton does a very strange Scotch accent as Allen Pinkerton, the security expert hired by the evil railroad to bring in the James-Younger gang. It has the full complement of brawls, robberies, escapes, battles, train wrecks, explosions and barroom roistering--including the riding-a-horse-through-a-window bit featured in all earlier Jesse James movies--but feels like a cramped TV movie rather than an epic biopic. Attempting to be a crowd-pleaser, it goes for a happy ending rather than the tragic shot-in-the-back finish, but that just means that its high spirits feel forced and unconvincing.
On the DVD: American Outlaws has a nice range of extras for such a minor film, including two deleted scenes, five behind the scenes "featurettes" (one not-very-hidden "hidden feature") and a commentary track by director Les Mayfield, writer John Rogers and editor Michael Tronick that may be a bit too pleased with itself, but offers a lively and entertaining account of the making of the film. --Kim Newman