Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
14 November 2018updated 23 Jul 2021 10:32am

Is Netflix’s Outlaw King the silliest film of the year?

Don’t be duped by anyone selling Outlaw King as earnest political drama: it’s silly, over the top and absurd.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

Within the first hour of the Netflix film Outlaw King – a take on the Scottish Wars of Independence, following Robert the Bruce (played by Wonder Woman Hollywood heart-throb Chris Pine) as he battles against the English – we see the following: a severed leg nailed to a cross, the sudden and needless firing of a very expensive-looking catapult, symbolic thistle-based foreplay, a friendly-but-not-actually-friendly duel to remind us of underlying tensions, a very raucous wedding, a very feminist Princess standing up for the weak, and a healthy dose of full-frontal male nudity.

If it sounds like Outlaw King is trying to be Game of Thrones that’s because it is, only without the shocking twists. It’s the male nudity that has generated headlines – New York Magazine’s culture website Vulture ran a piece titled simply: “How to See Chris Pine’s Penis in Outlaw King”. As a serious and moving depiction of a great struggle in British history, it fails – but as fun historical melodrama, it succeeds. It features two rising stars of British film: Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth, The Little Drummer Girl) and Billy Howle (The Sense of An Ending, On Chesil Beach). Howle is the cast member who best leans in to the film’s overblown style. He is hammy and brilliant, wearing a hideous bowl cut as Edward, a power-hungry, cruel and cowardly prince who shouts things such as “SHUT UP, YOU SNIVELLING FOOL.”

Don’t be duped by anyone selling Outlaw King as earnest political drama: there are no great insights or well-drawn characters here. It’s silly, over the top and absurd. When it embraces that – as when Howle grabs two dead swans by the neck and screams “BY THESE SWANS” – it’s great entertainment for a gloomy November night. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action

This article appears in the 14 Nov 2018 issue of the New Statesman, How the Brexiteers broke history