New to Netflix this week is the Spanish crime drama, Outlaws (aka Las Leyes de la Frontera / The Laws of the Border). Directed by Daniel Monzón and starring Marcos Ruiz, Begoña Vargas, and Chechu Salgado, the movie follows the story of a teenager who gets mixed up in an escalating series of crimes, after developing a friendship with a gang of delinquents.
In the movie, 17-year-old Nacho is a quiet young man who just wants to go about life in a carefree way. But his shy nature attracts the attention of a group of bullies and every day they make his life a living nightmare.
Trying to find some respite from being continuously beaten up, Nacho heads to the local arcade to play some games. While spending some time on the pinball machine, he is befriended by a Tere and Zarco – two streetwise strangers who show an interest in him.
After engaging in conversation, the pair invite Nacho to meet up with their friends. Although Nacho knows little about Tere and Zarco, he agrees to meet the larger group and he is soon welcomed into the fold.
The more time he spends with the group, the more Nacho begins to move away from being the shy and reserved young man he once was. He starts taking drugs, hanging out in clubs, and he soon gets caught up in criminal activity which helps fund his new way of life.
But as the crimes escalate, Nacho gets in deep and before long the police catch wind of what the gang are up to. Can Nacho keep one step ahead of the police, or will he find himself out of his depth?
Set during the 1970s, Outlaws is a fairly captivating little crime thriller. It tells a pretty well-worn story, about a teenager getting in over his head, but it’s a story which is done very well.
The film starts small-scale, focusing in on Nacho as an introverted teen, then builds upwards to showcase a completely different side to his character. Along the way the movie expands to demonstrate a dark underbelly to Nacho’s surroundings, and this keeps things interesting.
Sure, at all times it is pretty clear where everything is headed, but it doesn’t stop this from being a movie to get invested in. The narrative is well written, the lead character is likeable, and the whole thing is expertly put together.
What places the movie in really good standing is how well it captures the tone and feel of the 1970s. From the costuming and soundtrack, to the setting and historical references, the movie looks as if it has been effortlessly plucked from the past.
And then there is the central performance from lead actor, Marcos Ruiz, who manages to sell himself as a ‘70s teen. OK, so he looks a little older than the 17-year-old he portrays on screen (Ruiz is in his early twenties), but he has a strong screen presence and you can’t help but feel that he too has been lifted from this era.
Backing up Ruiz is a strong supporting cast, with Begoña Vargas putting in a fine performance as Nacho’s love-interest, Tere. Vargas exudes confidence in the role, while also demonstrating a vulnerability to the character, and she is an instant draw.
It’s not difficult to see why Nacho is so interested in her, or why he is tempted to stray from his less than appealing former life. The two have a good chemistry together, and their relationship forms the backbone of the story.
I knew nothing about Outlaws before it began, so I came into this movie with no real expectations. Now that I’ve watched the film, I can say that I found it to be an enjoyable experience and a movie that certainly delivered.
Outlaws has been put together with care and attention, and there’s much to like here. This is a solid picture, ideal for those who like crime dramas, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does tell a compelling story.
Should you be looking for something to get lost in for a couple of hours, then Outlaws is most certainly a film to take a look at. It knows how to play to its strengths, it moves at a good pace, and it never wears out its welcome.