Outlaw King

Outlaw King ★★★½

i (negatively) reviewed OUTLAW KING when it premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

Director David Mackenzie then cut 23 minutes out of the film.

this "review" includes the inside story of what happened, as well as my thoughts on the new & improved version of the movie.


That night was supposed to be a celebration. After more than five years of work on a rough and rowdy medieval epic several times larger than anything he’d ever made before (including his Best Picture-nominated “Hell or High Water”), and a desperate race to cut the thing together in time for its glitzy debut, “Outlaw King” director David Mackenzie had finally made it to the majestic Princess of Wales Theatre, where his latest movie had been invited to screen as the opening selection of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

More than 2,000 critics and industry professionals — including Chris Pine, Florence Pugh, and the rest of Mackenzie’s extraordinary cast — traveled from all over the world to witness the unveiling, eager for the first look at one of the fall’s most hotly anticipated contenders. The lights went down, the Netflix logo “ba-dummed!” across the massive screen, and the audience was dropped into the tumultuous story of Robert the Bruce and the First War for Scottish independence.

It wasn’t long before Mackenzie realized he had a problem. The film wasn’t working. After the spectacular first shot — an enthralling 8-minute long-take that introduces Robert (Pine) as he reluctantly pledges fealty to Edward I (Stephen Dillane), spars with the king’s psychotic son (Billy Howle), and watches an enormous catapult rain hell on a defenseless castle in the distance — the director could feel the air seeping out of the room. The conflict was slow to come into focus. The story was split between too many supporting characters. A chance encounter between Robert and legendary folk hero William Wallace distracted from the growing tensions between the Scottish nobles and the occupying Englishmen who had seized control of their land. The film’s sweep was as undeniable as its savagery, but when it finally came to an end (some 137 minutes after it had began), some audience members felt as if they had just watched a man unite his country in real time.