Every week, new original films debut on Netflix and other streaming services, often to much less fanfare than their big-screen counterparts. Cinemastream is Vox’s series highlighting the most notable of these premieres, in an ongoing effort to keep interesting and easily accessible new films on your radar.
The premise: Chris Pine stars as Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, in a war epic about medieval Scottish nationalism.
What it’s about: The year is 1304, and Scotland’s leaders are being forced to swear allegiance to the conquering King of England, Edward I (Stephen Dillane), who is due to soon be succeeded by his temperamental son Edward, Prince of Wales (Billy Howle). Among the men who swear allegiance is Robert the Bruce (Pine, with a passable Scottish accent if you don’t get too picky), who also marries an Englishwoman named Elizabeth (Florence Pugh), the daughter of a close friend of King Edward’s.
But when Robert receives word that the nationalist rebel William Wallace has been killed — this film overlaps with the time frame of Braveheart, in which Mel Gibson played Wallace — Robert decides he cannot stand by any longer and launches a war against the English for Scottish independence.
Though directed by Hell or High Water’s David McKenzie, Outlaw King feels mostly like a made-to-order movie for hungry fans of medieval war epics and maybe Game of Thrones. Many lush and surprisingly bloody battles take place between scenes in which men stand around in fields, tents, and palaces intoning meaningfully about duty, loyalty, the land, and freedom.
But for what it is, Outlaw King is plenty entertaining, with a hint of humanity in Robert and Elizabeth’s courtship. (And the rumors are true: Chris Pine did a touch of full frontal for this film, the reaction to which has led him to decry the “double standard” for male and female on-screen nudity). Outlaw King isn’t a game-changer, but it’s a strong enough movie to make it worth recommending to anyone who might enjoy a little sword-fighting and horse-riding on the gray-green hills of Scotland.
Critical consensus: Outlaw King currently has a score of 60 on Metacritic. At Screen Daily, Wendy Ide writes that “a fair bit of historical scene-setting at the beginning means that the picture takes a while to hit its stride. But once it does, there is much to enjoy in this big, brawling ruck of an action movie.”
Where to watch: Outlaw King is streaming on Netflix.