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'Outlaw King' review: Chris Pine shines in Scottish epic

The David Mackenzie film tells the story of Robert the Bruce's campaign to free Scotland from the English.

Chris Pine stars as Robert the Bruce in

Chris Pine stars as Robert the Bruce in "Outlaw King." Photo Credit: Netfix / David Eustace

'Outlaw King' 

Directed by David Mackenzie

Starring  Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Rebecca Robin

Rated R

Playing at The Landmark at 57 West and IFC Center, and streaming on Netflix.

William Wallace casts a long shadow over the events of "Outlaw King," a new movie that picks up the Scottish history mantle right where "Braveheart" left off. 

The quintessential freedom fighter has been executed around the beginning of David Mackenzie's picture, which commences in 1304 and chronicles the rebellion of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), who renounces a surrender to English King Edward I (Stephan Dillane), is declared King of Scots and commences a guerrilla campaign to reclaim national sovereignty.

Wallace's newly mythical stature shapes and determines the renewed push to free Scotland from the English tyrants on-screen here and the Oscar-winning Mel Gibson movie has a similar effect on this spiritual sequel. If the sheer rush of primal, epic adrenaline that characterized the earlier picture is missing from Mackenzie's more subdued effort, there is still plenty of rich dramatic terrain left for exploration.

Mackenzie, a Scottish filmmaker best known for his excellent Texas-set crime drama "Hell or High Water," settles into the conventional genre rhythms of this story without sacrificing an essential search for truth. Instead of delving into mythmaking or nationalistic propaganda, he frames Robert the Bruce as a man driven by a cause bigger than himself and committed to its righteousness, while also guilt-ridden over the dangerous fallout.

Pine, a very American actor, makes for a credible ancient Scottish royal, with an accent that never calls attention to itself and a degree of steely intensity that resonates. He's ruggedly charismatic, getting muddy in the trenches with his men, while also maintaining a degree of remove from them.

Even if you've seen all of this before, the film offers plenty of authentic Scottish atmosphere: The sweeping landscape shots highlight the diverse beauty of the land and you can practically feel the cold, gray chill pouring out from the screen. The relentless, bloody violence is seen with a clear camera's eye — few movies in memory have made such a point of showing soldiers attacking and killing the horse before its rider — and the portrayal of the steep cost of self-determination is timeless.

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