Stephen Merchant & Elgin James’ comedy thriller

Outlaws makes no bones about the fact that its conductors conform to recognizable categories. Indeed, it has one character – Rani (Rihanne Barreto), the self-proclaimed “good Asian studious girl” – who only appears and says so in the first episode. “You’ve got your right-wing extremist, your left-wing warrior, your celubutante, your sly old man, and whatever the hell it is,” she explains to Christian (Gamba Cole), whom she playfully teases. called “bad boy”.

The purpose of Stephen Merchant and Elgin James’ horror-comedy series is to find common ground between different characters and build a bridge between them that transcends conventional divisions of class, politics or social status. festival. And while its results on that front were mixed at best, a lovable cast and youthful sense of humor nevertheless made for an generally pleasant time.

Outlaws

Key point

Obviously flawed, but adorable enough that you might not mind.

Release date: Friday, April 1 (Amazon Prime Video)
Cast: Rhianne Barreto, Gamba Cole, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Walken, Eleanor Tomlinson, Darren Boyd, Clare Perkins, Jessica Gunning
Creator: Stephen Merchant, Elgin James


Initially, its central group of strangers was brought together in a semi-random situation. Recently, everyone has been in legal trouble for one matter or another, and as a result, each has been given community service – over 100 hours cleaning a derelict building under supervision. Diane’s supervisor (Jessica Gunning, radiating a vibe somewhere between Melissa McCarthy and Dwight Schrute). But a series of events involving a handgun and a duffel bag filled with cash increased the value dramatically, tying the outlaws together more closely than they could have imagined. image at first.

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It’s a compelling premise for a series, especially if you’re someone who enjoys watching shows about bad guys forming unlikely friendships. (Up to and including Misfitsbut Outlaws bears a superficial but obvious resemblance.) The series is most enjoyable when its relationships are most beloved, like when the characters are dancing in business with Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” or plotting to overtake Diane like they’re in some much less glamorous version of Ocean’s 11.

But even with six long episodes to fill, the series seems to only be able to dig into its seven core characters, let alone the family, friends, and co-workers around each one. Its efforts to destroy familiar games often rely on games that are still more familiar. Apparently, the influencer (Eleanor Tomlinson’s hot-tempered Lady Gabby) craves attention because she’s not loved by her wealthy father (Richard E. Grant). Of course, the older con man (Christopher Walken-y Frank by Christopher Walken) is trying to mend a relationship with the daughter (Dolly Wells) he has let down many times before.

Some never stop feeling like stereotypes. Clare Perkins brings sensitivity and self-awareness to her role as Myrna, the gangster activist – but the character, as written, feels like a straw man. she’s a Daily mail the reader’s idea of ​​the sober type of social justice warrior who would disparage others as “racist traitors” or “puppets of capitalism” for daring to like Michael Bolton or work as a salesman time at Ikea.

Predictably, Myrna is most often paired in scenes with a self-admitted person Daily mail fans, the cranky conservative John (Darren Boyd), so that other characters can crow that they’re “just two angry peas in a pod”. Their dynamic seems to be rooted not in a mutual interest or feeling among the characters, but in Merchant and Elgin’s desire to make some sort of point about how both sides of the political spectrum may be unreasonable and invincible. The show’s other stabs to cultural commentary don’t go much deeper.

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If the story of Outlaws can feel too organized – to the point of making Bristol, a city of more than 400,000 people, look like a small town – its tone tends to be disorganized. There’s probably simply no way to combine a potentially deadly crime threat and a hilarious side-story about a teenager’s house party into a single episode without some emotion. strong. But it doesn’t make the experience of trying to go from one to another feel more organic.

However, when Outlaws works, it works. Rani and Christian’s courtship follows a grueling youthful romance, complete with parental disapproval, nighttime sneaks, and speeches about being as sheltered as she is. unable to understand his real-world problems. But when they swing with Khalid or pose in a party photo booth, Barreto and Cole beam to each other with a sweet, pure affection that makes those plot points fresh again.

Likewise, it’s no shock to learn that Gabby feels hopelessly lonely despite having 1.2 million followers (God, she notes, only 12), or that she has habit of filling loneliness with champagne and cocaine. But it’s heartwarming to see her develop an unexpected friendship with Greg (Merchant), an incompetent lawyer with no friends – perhaps because he often introduces himself with whining lines like “I 6 feet 7 inches tall, and no, that’s out of proportion. If it were to scale, I would be three feet tall.”

In such relationships, or in the group’s gradual progression from a group of suspicious strangers to a cohesive group of friends, Outlaws feels like more than the sum of its parts. The characters may not feel as fully considered as they should be, and the points the series is trying to make with them are outrageous; It is hoped that the announced season two will do an even better job of actually subverting the established stereotypes it poses.

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But the series is nothing but a plea for forgiveness for its flaws – and the affection it shows for its characters, as well as the sentiments the characters eventually begin to express. appear together, enough to make you want to comply.

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