As far as poor man's versions of Steven Soderbergh's The Limey go, one can probably do worse than The Outsider. This economical machismo flick is apparently a labor of love for star and co-writer Craig Fairbrass, a man's man old school action hero in the Charles Bronson mold, and one can tell he put a lot of time and effort into it. The passion he and a venerable group of veteran actors bring to this very familiar shoot 'em up/beat 'em up film are enough to make it worth a spin for genre fans, even if there isn't anything truly special about it.
Fairbrass plays Lex Walker, a fish-out-of-water tough guy Brit on the hunt for his missing daughter in America. He's a mercenary working a lucrative gig in Afghanistan when he learns his daughter has been murdered, only to arrive on our shores to find that the corpse is that of her best friend. Like a hot knife through butter, Walker cuts his way through hordes of mysterious bad guys to find the truth of his daughter's disappearance, staying a step ahead of a detective (Jason Patric) hot on his trail. James Caan, still intimidating at the ripe old age of 73, makes for a particularly nasty villain and the boss of Walker's daughter. Caan and Fairbrass make for a brutish pair when together, but they give the film a grittiness that is appealing...for a time, anyway.
Co-written and directed by Brian A. Miller, the story starts off in a way many of these straight-forward vengeance flicks tend to. Staying lean and mean has its benefits as Fairbrass is clear to snarl his way through dialogue that doesn't require much from him, while cracking a few skulls and engaging in a few shoot-outs. But with the introduction of his daughter's friends (one of whom is played by Shannon Elizabeth, oddly enough) and a convoluted twist involving credit fraud, the film's reach far exceeds its grasp. Miller's grasp of action sequences is questionable, relying so heavily on shaky cam aesthetics that it's hard to tell who Fairbrass is beating up. This is a film that requires a more conventional approach to match its simple ambitions. Fairbrass, who has appeared in movies alongside Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham in the past, is hardly expendable and makes for a believable purveyor of violence. The Outsider doesn't have much in the way of style, but there's something to admire in the way it plows through like a bull in a china shop.