'Outside the Law,' which was nominated for a foreign language Oscar, is a tough film to watch. You're essentially witnessing how a terrorist organization springs up from nothing. How people can go from god-fearing, law-abiding citizens to killer vigilantes because they believe their cause is right. This movie tells the story of Algeria and it's fight for independence from an oppressive French regime after World War II.
The story is told through the eyes of three brothers. Said (Jamel Debbouze) is the wild one of the bunch. He doesn't care much for the cause. Instead he finds other ways, like controlling prostitution for instance, to make money. Messaoud (Roschdy Zem) is the strong silent type. He went to war for France, but has come back and has joined up in the cause with his brother Abdelkader (Sami Bouajila). Abdelkader is the brains of the operation. He truly believes he's doing the right thing. Killing French officials is just a means to an end. It really isn't up to us to judge which side was right. The French invaded Algeria, kicked this family off of their ancestral land, and then expected them to lie back and not do a thing.
'Outside the Law' does a good job at not really taking sides. The three brothers are just as vengeful and ruthless as the blood-thirsty French officials they're fighting against. Abdelkader executes a fellow Algerian because the man bought a refrigerator from the French. The taxes from that fridge are helping their enemies, and that was cause for execution.
Even though Abdelkader thinks his cause is just, he still becomes a tyrant in his own right. Perhaps that's the hardest thing to witness in this movie. Watching a good man turn into a killer because the pressures of his own society caused him to. He felt like he needed to become a killer. Fight violence with violence. Unfortunately, that game plan rarely works out well.
Its action scenes are stark visceral images that will get to you after a while. The mass murder on the streets that takes place at the beginning of the movie is hard to take in. Its realism isn't for the faint of heart.
For the first hour or so 'Outside the Law' keeps you interested in these people's plight. At 138 minutes, however, it becomes a somewhat tedious exercise in vigilantism that ultimately fails at conveying the real-life drama that went on during this time period. It feels too burdensome, like we're watching the brothers do the same thing over and over with no end in sight. They aren't nearly charismatic enough for us to stay interested in and they become far too cruel to root for. The movie and characters simply outstay their welcome.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Outside the Law' is a Cohen Media Group release. It comes in a standard Blu-ray case and is coded for region A use.
I must say that 'Outside the Law' is one of the most atrociously frustrating Blu-rays I've ever had to review. This transfer is a sad state of affairs. I say frustrating, because at the beginning you'll think that you're watching a rather good looking presentation. The protest march and the subsequent shootout look rather well done. Crisp detail, nice, but muted, colors. I thought I was settling in for a good looking feature. Boy was I wrong.
'Outside the Law' is plagued with so many encode violations it should be recalled. Blocking, banding, aliasing, you name it, it's there. The blocking and digital noise gets so bad you'll think you're watching a horribly compressed cable signal. There are scenes where the camera stays inside and views the action going on from beyond the door. The outside is well-lit and looks good, but the darkness on the inside is crawling with noise. Blocks move up and down, pulsating on screen. Sure to make any videophile's blood boil. As a matter of fact, it wouldn't take a videophile to point out these mistakes. Any lay person would be able to see that there's something not right with this presentation.
Check out the times where darkness surrounds a few characters. The banding is downright terrible. It encircles the picture so it makes it actually look like you're looking down the tube of a telescope in order to see what's going on. There are simply so many encoding problems that it's just not worth bothering to pick this one up. It's a lost cause. For a movie that was just shot in 2010, there's no excuse at all why it should look this horrendous.
Note: Something else that needs to be mentioned is concerning the movie's subtitles. It's a visual problem, so I thought I'd put it in this section. The subtitles are placed terribly. They always appear half on and half off the frame. The bottom of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio runs directly through each and every line of dialogue. I've never seen a movie place the subtitles there. I've seen them place them on the frame and off the frame in the black, but never cut them right down the middle. It's extremely irritating to read. Also, one last thing about the subtitles. There are numerous times where the timing is off. Subtitles pop up a second or two after everyone is done talking, numerous times. It's a huge annoyance.
A 5.1 French DTS-HD MA track is included. The shootout at the beginning is actually pretty convincing. Bullets whizzing from all directions, successfully traveling smoothly through the front and rear channels. It sounds decent.
Dialogue is clear – even though the subtitles need a whole lot of help. Rear activity is well placed whether it’s a crowded street of people running for their lives or a boxing match with folks chanting for their favorite boxer, the rear channels have their fair share of work to do.
There's nothing as glaringly wrong with the audio as there is with the video. It's serviceable and will get you through the movie, but it will fail to provide any real "wow" moments.
Good golly this movie looks bad. Really bad. One of the worst video presentations I've ever seen on Blu-ray. There's really no excuse for how bad this one looked or how frustrating it actually was to watch. There are so many encoding problems that it's just not worth it to own it, even if you enjoy the movie. This is simply a terrible looking Blu-ray. Just avoid it. Don't pay for a product that should have been much, much better.