Review by Dan Skip Allen
With the popularity of Yellowstone and its prequel series 1883, the neo-Western has become a new trend in Hollywood. Popular shows can catch on and become a water cooler talking point. Outer Range is Amazon's installment in the modern-day Western. They got a big star, and it has a sci-fi twist to it as well. Is it on the level of other modern-day Westerns? That is the question.
Josh Brolin plays the matriarch of a family in Wyoming. When a strange woman drifter (Imogen Poots) shows up on his ranch's doorstep, strange things start to happen that may unravel his serenity and happiness. Add in a hostile takeover of part of his land by the neighbors and the appearance of a mysterious black hole on his pasture, and you have a full-blown sci-fi Western mystery.
Josh Brolin is the anchor of this show because of his presence as a leading man in film and television projects. Ever since the mid-2000s, his star has been on the rise. He has done everything from comic book movies in the MCU and X-Men franchises to doubling for his co-star in Men in Black 3, Tommy Lee Jones. Still, his most effective roles are when he plays mysterious loners or Western archetypes, such as his character in No Country for Old Men. He tends to garner a lot of attention whenever he's in any project.
Outer Range has, at first sight, a typical dramatic storyline and plot points: two rival families fighting over land they both want and think is theirs. Will Patton is famous for Remember the Titans and his small role in Minari. He is a good foil for anybody in film or television. His family has a beef with their neighbors. However, there is more going on than the dispute over some land when one of his sons goes missing and is presumed dead. This development fueled the fire between these two rival families in the small Wyoming town.
The sci-fi aspect of the film is interesting at first but tends to be more of a hindrance to the overall story. At first, it would seem like a nice Asimov twist to the film, but it turned out to bog down what otherwise would be a relatively mundane family rivalry series. This series has two main story threads that go from the show's beginning until the end, when law enforcement officers and lawyers get involved. It gets derailed by the mysterious drifter played by Poots and the sci-fi angle of the black hole in the west pasture.
The look of this show is pretty good. The mountains and plains and rolling hills alike are all filmed very beautifully. The creator and showrunner Brian Watkins has wrapped this Western into a mystery thriller with some good plot points, and story beats typically known for good dramas. It has a great family rivalry at its heart but gets derailed by the sci-fi aspects of the series. When the series focuses on this family rivalry, it works perfectly, but it tends to be long and drawn out when it veers off course.
The series is engaging to a point. The acting is good by all, and the show looks very good. The writing is where the show tends to fail its viewers. I wanted to see how the family drama between these two alpha males and their children got resolved without the drifter and her mysterious motivations. Poots eats up the scenery, but in the end, I wasn't very enamored with her character or her arc. She took me away from what I wanted to see and caused the series to drag, which is not good. This show had potential but failed to be as engaging as I would have liked.
Outer Range streams on Amazon beginning April 15.