Forced into exile by the English after being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce fights to reclaim the throne.
The story of Outlaw King sort of picks up where the most famous movie about the Wars for Scottish Independence ended: Mel Gibson was William Wallace in Braveheart, and in the Outlaw King we only see some of Wallace’s bodily remains as a catalyst for renewed energy to fight off the English. Outlaw King tells the story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), the self-proclaimed King of the Scots who waged the continuation of the war for independence against King Edward I (Stephen Dillane) and especially his son Prince Edward (Billy Howle).
The story starts as King Edward has beaten Wallace and appoints Bruce and his rival for the Scottisch crown John III Comyn as joint Guardians of Scotland. To further solidify this new ‘peace’ Bruce is offered a bride – Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh), daughter of the Earl of Ulster. This peace however proves untenable and it is not long before Bruce kills Comyn and claims the crown with support of the Church. Prince Edward is sent to squash this resistance and seems to enjoy maximising bloodshed in doing so. Bruce has only a small band of loyal followers and stands little chance against the English army. But after some successes his following grows and so do the battles.
The movie is sort of interesting from a historical perspective, but it doesn’t succeed in sucking you in, nor in portraying Robert the Bruce as much of a hero or much of a leader. Chris Pine seems a bit of an odd choice and never quite feels natural in the role; Pine worked with director David MacKenzie before on Hell or High Water but their joint success on that movie doesn’t translate to this setting. Billy Howle plays a decent villain as Prince Edward, and Florence Pugh brings some humanity to the story, and to Bruce. But the storyline isn’t particularly engaging and you never even really root for Bruce and his men, even though he clearly is the underdog against the English. As we move from one bloody and muddy fight to the next bloody and muddy battle, do we care?