Writer-director Barry Battles’s The Baytown Outlaws revels in hicks-ploitation sleaze, a Southern-fried conceit that works in spurts, particularly in its focus on regional details and dialects, but more often than not, this schlocky piece of ultra violence plays like a pop-culture pastiche—references to Evil Dead, The Dukes of Hazzard, and the cannon of Quentin Tarantino abound—without a stable thematic foundation.
The featherbrained road movie’s plot concerns the freewheeling Oodie brothers, a trio of redneck guns for hire—ringleader Brick (Clayne Crawford), mute behemoth Lincoln (Daniel Cudmore), and dimwitted McQueen (Travis Fimmel)—who, after botching a hit, are blackmailed by a witness, Celeste (Eva Longoria), into rescuing her mentally handicapped godson from her ex-husband, Carlos (Billy Bob Thornton), a maniacal vice lord who controls all crime in southeastern Texas. Upon completing their mission, the bros embark on a tumultuous road trip back to their native Alabama with Carlos’s gangland allies hot on their trail.
The abrupt transition from brainless action comedy to painfully self-serious rumination on parenthood and accountability doesn’t serve a film in which the primary goal is to squeeze as many Lynard Skynard songs and car chases into 98 minutes as possible. But The Baytown Outlaws has its pleasures, featuring crisp and precise digital cinematography that eschews the sort of tattered, “authentic” mise-en-scène that’s usually associated with post-grindhouse fare—and almost always fraudulently realized in post-production. And while his screen time is minimal, Thornton gleefully fleshes out a one-dimensional role, embellishing his Southern twang to deliciously cartoonish degrees and generally behaving like a lunatic, supplying the film with a sense of delirium that’s a welcome respite from Battles’s strained seriousness.