American Outlaws Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
Quick on the draw, American Outlaw’s opening ambush sequence seemed to enthrall the predominately Stetson wearing, entirely male audience that I (a female) screened with.
Hoping to return to farming after serving in the American Civil War, the James brothers and their cousins from the Younger family are disappointed to discover that trouble’s-a-brewin’ back at the ranch. A big bad railroad tycoon, his agents, and a special group of detectives are using the government’s approval as clout to persuade the locals to sell their land cheap. Although none of the boys are willing to accept the offer, Cole Younger (Scott Caan) expresses his disapproval by killing a couple of the prospective purchasers. To save their cousin’s neck from the noose, the cocky quick-draw Jesse (Colin Farrell) and his book-learned, sharp-shooting brother Frank (Gabriel Macht) decide to wage a private war to derail the mogul’s progress.
Forming the James-Younger Gang they begin holding up banks, robbing payroll, and blowing up tracks, which supplies plenty of gun fighting opportunities. They also wisely buy support and good will (and audience sympathy) by sharing their take with the general population. Although the cunning and patient Detective Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) is in charge of the railroad’s resistance, the biggest threat to the gang’s survival may be an emerging leadership power struggle.
American Outlaws is a glamorization of crime with Robin Hood ethics that contains some sexual references, moderate language use, and violent depictions. While these are undeniably gratuitous, they are not overly gory or psychologically disturbing. This leaves parents of older teens with the difficult dilemma of deciding if killing for entertainment’s sake with no significant attempt to show consequences is really any better.
The action and witty script are sure to supply the film’s targeted demographic with lots of what they are looking for. But anyone interested in the history of Jesse James and his band of outlaws may want to seriously heed the disclaimer in the closing credits, which states all characters portrayed in this film are fictitious and any similarity to real persons is purely coincidental.Starring Colin Farrell, Kathy Bates, Timothy Dalton. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release September 17, 2001. Updated March 17, 2009
Rating & Content Info
Why is American Outlaws rated PG-13? American Outlaws is rated PG-13 by the MPAA western violence
This action-packed gun-toting western portrays Jessie James and his gang of outlaws as crusaders against the dirty dealings of the railroad empire, with plenty of non-gory violence, moderate language and sexual references.
Soldiers fire rifles and artillery at group of men on horseback, some riders fall, at least three depictions of men being shot. Two explosions send men flying into the air. Sharpshooter’s bullet hits man. Reckless rider leaps over wagon and shoots pistols at soldiers. Man shot in head, another in chest. Soldiers with bayonets charge pistol-wielding horse riders. Two men wrestle over rifle. Two men shot with rifle. Boy threatened with pistol. Fist fight. Injured and bedraggled soldiers shown. Dead man shown hanging from noose. Three men draw guns and threaten group of men. In a half serious manner, a woman suggests God would approve of secretly murdering a group of unscrupulous businessmen. Talk of man being condemned to death for shooting two other men. Man shown bound and gagged. Noose is placed around man’s neck. Man spits in face of another man who cuffs him in return. Stampeding horses cause property damage and people to flee. Several men shot in gunfire exchange. Horse and rider crash though window. Man knocked down by horse. One man seriously injured by bullet. Men set fire to barn. Two houses explode killing one person. Men with guns rob bank. Man hits boy with cane. Sheriff aims gun at thieves. Railroad cars and track explode. Railroad conductor threatened into stopping train, then held at gunpoint. Depiction of several men shot and killed during various robberies. Two scenes involve man angrily threatening bank employees and patrons during holdup. Brawling men crash through window, then draw guns. Man shot and killed. Lengthy shootout scene. Man crashes through window. Man falls from water tower after being shot. Three explosions cause property damage, death, and mayhem. Blood shown on hands of man who tries to help injured character. Priest accepts bribe. Man taken prisoner at gunpoint. Quarreling gang members draw guns. Man in chains threatened with unfair trial and hanging. Man hits another in face. Various gunshots exchanged. Man falls from rail car. Train engine and some cars explode. Gang and soldiers engage in shootout, resulting in several deaths. Man shot, another man threatened.
Sexual Content: B
Man teases brother about his attraction to a young woman. Man teased that his partner in past sexual escape was cross-dressing man. Man complains about his wife’s infidelity. Woman shown wearing only her long slip. Woman accuses man of touching her. Man jokes about doing something shameful at dancing party. Four scenes depict man and woman kissing. Two men with obvious intentions leave with saloon girls, one of them slaps his choice on her backside. Man asks young boy if he’s ever been with a woman. Woman tells man that marriage comes before going to a hotel together. Shirtless man and woman in sleeveless dress/ slip go swimming and kiss.
At least: 1 slang term for sex, 6 moderate profanities, 13 mild profanities, 1 use of a crude phrase, 2 terms of Deity used as expletives, along with several terms of Deity uttered by a character whose religious tendencies include talking to Jesus.
Alcohol / Drug Use: C+
Pipe and cigar smoking shown on a couple of occasions. Drinking and gambling in saloon depicted in two scenes. Young boy drinks liquor in saloon. Injured character offered whiskey. Priest offers toast from his personal flask.
Page last updated March 17, 2009
American Outlaws Parents' Guide
When Jesse is set on getting vengeance, he argues with Zee (Ali Larter) that justice does not touch people who are rich and powerful. Zee counters by asking, “Who’s justice? Yours or God’s?” and then, “When will you stop?” What options do you have when you feel something is unfair? What are appropriate limits?
How do you feel about the youngest member of the gang describing his experience as an outlaw as being the “time of his life”?
For information about Jesse James, one of America’s most famous outlaws, search the internet with your favorite engine, or check your local library. As for the motives of this legend of a character, it appears the jury is still out.