Without a doubt, Craig Fairbass is a physical presence in any film he is in. As much as The Outsider tries, though, his emotional output as a concerned father is outmatched by his stature and physical strength.
Fairbass plays a British military contractor named Lex Walker who is told his daughter has died. When he arrives in Los Angeles and discovers the body is not hers, he begins an investigation, starting at her former employer Most Industries, run by unscrupulous Carl Schuuster (James Caan). At the same time, Detective Klein of the LAPD is trying to solve the murder of another girl and keep Walker from dishing out his own definition of justice.
In a supporting role, Jason Patric as Detective Klein does little except expound with police procedural lingo and has no substantial interaction with the rest of the characters until the climactic scene. As resident villain Carl Schuuster, James Caan establishes himself early as the bad guy, but has little influence otherwise. He is just an ominous presence posing as a threat until the end of the film. Shannon Elizabeth still looks great as a bartender who helps Walker track down his daughter after she was last seen in the bar Elizabeth works at. That is about it. She looks great, though. Really great. Great.
So, this leaves The Outsider as little else but an action vehicle for Fairbass. And I wish it was a stronger action vehicle for Fairbass. Otherwise he is going to be relegated as a background tough guy, a slightly larger version of Jason Stathem, or, cartoonish bad guy with the British accent that Hollywood productions love so much. I do not wish this so much as a fan of Fairbass, but as an expatriate of the island nation who wishes his fellow countrymen well. I do this out of some sense of nationalistic duty. And since the story is by Craig Fairbass and writer/director Brian A. Miller, the responsibility is theirs to provide Fairbass with enough material to impress.
There are only a handful of action scenes in the film and they do little to highlight any of Fairbass' strengths. There are a couple of shootouts and a couple of melees. As shootouts go, Miller keeps it clinical and strategic. Quick take-downs of the first trio of bad guys in a parking structure serve as witness of Walker's military training and clues for the police to follow.
The final shootout at the home of Schuster is a bit more frantic, but limited to ducking and weaving, with the bad guys walking into the bullets. Those are not as disappointing as the melees, however, as the staging is obvious and the camerawork actually exposes distances between fighters than create the illusion that they are hitting each other. Editing is also an issue, as these fist fights are cut to pieces and loose fragments. It is difficult to appreciate the effort.
In the end, there just is not enough action content in The Outsider to really impress upon and showcase Fairbass as an action lead. It does not do enough to elevate his status beyond 'dependable'. I want to see Fairbass face up against someone other than hired goons. For someone with such a lengthy career, I want to see what he can do in a bigger action production back on this side of pond, against some of top-bill talent here. Get him into an Expendables movie. Or get him to go tête-à-tête with fellow Brit Scott Adkins and drown us in dialects and death.
The Outsider opens in select cinemas on February 7. Check local listings for more information.
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