A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie features a great deal of western-style violence, with many injuries and deaths. There are several shoot-outs and major characters are killed, including a parent. The main characters are robbers who kill when they must to get away with the money. There is some strong cowboy language, including mild references to prostitutes. A scene takes place in a saloon, and a boy takes a drink.
What's the story?
All Jesse James (Colin Farrell) wanted was to come back from the Civil War and farm his land. But he finds that the railroad men have been forcing residents fromt heir land to make room for a new railroad line. James and his brother Frank (Gabriel Macht) join with their cousins, the Younger brothers, Cole (Scott Caan), Bob (Will McCormack), and Jim (Gregory Smith), embark on a Robin Hood-style robbing spree -- robbing from the railroads to give to the people who have lost their land.
Is it any good?
AMERICAN OUTLAWS is a rock and roll western for the MTV era. It may be a little on the dumb and cheesy side, but it does not take itself or its characters too seriously and it has enough cute cowboys, shoot-outs, and romance to remind us how much we've missed seeing westerns. Once we abandon any pretense of historical accuracy, we can settle back and enjoy the story -- more of a fable -- about the infamous Jesse James and the James-Younger gang.
There are some good action scenes and solid production values. The script is unimpressive. What makes the movie work as well as it does is the performance of Irish actor Colin Farrell, whose critically acclaimed but little seen performance in Tigerland built up a lot of anticipation for his first starring role in a major American film. He more than lives up to that promise, giving Jesse James a charm and all-American open-heartedness that make it easy for us to accept him as the hero. And this movie really is about the outlaw as rock star. People seem positively honored to be robbed by them, and the man who is charged with capturing him says admiringly, "If I was to design the perfect outlaw band, this is the gang I'd create," and "I'd just as soon kill you, Jesse, but chasing you takes up too much of my time."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie makes us root for the robbers. Would it be possible to tell this story from a different point of view? Families should do some research on the real Jesse James. Why is he such a fascinating and romantic figure, more than a century after his death?