Outlaw - Justice just got rougher

Source: The Times
February 24, 2007
Justice just got rougher
Nick Love’s Outlaw, a tale of vigilante violence, will upset Left and Right.
That’s how it should be, he tells Kevin Maher
Nick Love is mad as hell. And he’s not going to take it any more. “Look at
the state of this f***ing country!” hisses the tough-talking Londoner and
37-year-old film-making maverick, trying not to upset the finely dressed
clientele of a swanky Soho hotel. “Look how that c*** Blair has failed this
country! He’s created a society where you can get arrested for being
antiIslamic, and yet it’s fine to go and carpet-bomb Baghdad! He has
cheated us, he has lied to us, and he has neglected the working classes.
We are worse off now than we were ten years ago, and I feel f***ing angry
about it.”
And if you don’t believe him, just look at his new film Outlaw. A visceral
vigilante flick that is politically provocative to both the Left and the Right,
it stars Sean Bean as a disillusioned Iraq war veteran called Bryant who
is so repulsed by our crime-ridden and paedophile-plagued society that
he decides to dole out some rough justice of his own. Recruiting five
equally enraged males from across the social spectrum (posh, poor,
white and black), Bryant begins to target — in the words of the movie’s
one good copper (played by Bob Hoskins) — “the dealers, the bullies,
the junkies, the scum, the c***s, the dogs, the lot!”
Naturally, it’s a film that’s designed to ruffle feathers — whether it’s the
disturbing sight of a heavily pregnant woman with a butcher’s knife sticking
out of her stomach, or Bryant’s controversial crypto-fascist monologue
on the evils of Blair’s Britain, Outlaw dares you to remain impassive
throughout. “Some people tell me that it’s a really important film,” says
Love, who previously upset the establishment by releasing his love-letter
to soccer hooliganism, The Football Factory, on the eve of the Euro 2004
championships. “But other people, good friends of mine, say that it’s f***ing
dreadful, and that it’s militant fascism and that I should be ashamed of myself.
But, ultimately, that’s what the film is about, isn’t it? It’s about dividing
people and sparking debate.”
And yet for all its conspicuous push-button provocations, there remains in
Outlaw a sense that the politics is simply a Trojan Horse for the real
concerns of its director. Like Love’s underestimated debut Good-bye
Charlie Bright,and his subsequent working-class parables, The Football
Factoryand The Business,at the heart of Outlaw is an obsession with
emasculated men, with a crisis of masculinity, and with what it takes
to be a “real” man in an increasingly feminised society. In short, his
movies are about men and their relationship with violence, and how it
can and does define them. They are, if you like, modern cockney westerns.
Love agrees. He bends over and lifts up his white shirt to reveal a giant
Wild Bunch tattoo on his lower back. Outlaw, he says, is hugely influenced
by the Sam Peckinpah classic. They are both films, he says, about people
who are disenfranchised and desperate enough to live on the other side
of the law. And yes, he says, his movies are about men, too.
And how we’ve lost our way and a sense of who we are. And thus, naturally,
they’re also about violence. “I’ve always been scared of violence,” says
Love, who grew up with his divorced mother on a council estate in Greenwich.
“When I was a kid I gravitated towards street gangs. I was excited by violence,
but I was always on the periphery of it, always the outsider, because I was so
terrified by it, too. And I think that’s reflected in the films.”
It’s exactly this sort of blunt confrontation of unfashionable social concerns
that has alienated Love from the liberal mainstream film industry, while
simultaneously winning him a huge following among what he calls “Middle
England lads and their girlfriends”. He is, in case you hadn’t heard, one of
the most commercially successful directors in the country. The Football
Factory cost just £500,000 to make, was critically reviled, and yet became
one of the year’s best-selling DVDs — shifting an unprecedented 970,000
copies (which, in the UK, is Harry Potter numbers). His gangster-themed
follow-up, The Business, sold another half-million DVDs.
That’s just one reason why 20th Century Fox has hired him, together with
the Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald, to make its big-screen
adaptation of the TV cop classic The Sweeney. “Fox hire me and they say:
‘Cool, a million DVDs right away’, ” says Love. “‘This is the guy who can
make it hip’.”
He adds, however, that despite the prestige that comes with The Sweeney
and the notoriety that Outlaw will inevitably bring, he is under no illusion
about his place in the cosy, luvvie-filled world of the British film industry.
“I have no place,” he says. “I don’t get invited to parties, my films don’t
get considered for awards. I am the ultimate outsider.” He pauses, and
adds: “Anyway, why would I go to film parties when I don’t need to?
Young film-makers go to parties because they’re like sharks round a boat,
hoping for a bit of chump to be thrown overboard, waiting for a kill. But
I’m up in my office, working away on my own films. I don’t need a kill.”
Outlaw is on general release from Mar 9


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