Film Review: The Outsider

A thoroughly generic action picture about an ass-kicking Brit searching Los Angeles for his missing daughter, <i>The Outsider</i> never rises above the clich&#233;s of an overpopulated genre.

Has there ever been a genuinely good, low-budget action movie built around a slab of snarling beefcake with a barely concealed soft center and a comic-book name like Lex Walker? OK, other than 1984's The Terminator, which did an end run around the fact that its star's physique was more distinguished than his acting chops by making him a time-traveling cyborg of few words? The Outsider is no genre breakout, but it hits the ground running and never overreaches its abilities, which is more than can be said for many of its peers.
A veteran of 25 years in the military, Walker (Craig Fairbrass) appears to have gone through life without encountering a problem he couldn't pummel into submission…except one. Fatherhood, apparently undertaken in haste and ignored at leisure, gradually slipped down his priority list until it dropped off sometime not long before The Outsider's opening scene, in which a pretty young woman is chased to her death plunge from a long, long bridge. Notified that his estranged daughter, Samantha (Melissa Ordway), is dead, Walker hightails it to California to officially identify the body, only to be confronted with a stranger's corpse. But the real Samantha, whose credit cards and ID were found with the corpse, is missing, having recently abandoned both her job and her social life without so much as a word to anyone.
Having already kissed his career goodbye—Walker's parting words to the higher-up who refused to grant compassionate leave were, shall we say, intemperate—the born-again dad dedicates himself to finding his daughter. His mission puts Walker at cross-purposes with both honest LAPD detective Klein (Jason Patric) and crooked businessman Schuster (James Caan), who clearly knows more about Samantha than he's letting on, and forces alliances with a tough cookie (Shannon Elizabeth) and a nightclub owner (Johnny Messner) who is quite as sleazy as the shady company he keeps. Let the mayhem begin!
To be fair, U.K. tough guy Craig Fairbrass busts ass as well as kicking it—he's been plugging away in movies, TV and videogames since 1980, amassing a substantial, if not particularly stellar, body of work—and resists the impulse to crack wise after cracking heads, a convention that's been stopping action movies dead in their tracks for close to three decades. But it's hard to imagine him cracking the A-list: He's got the look and he isn't a total block of wood, but Fairbrass lacks the cheeky charm that distinguishes the likes of Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham from the Olivier Gruners of the smackdown universe. And without a charismatic lead, The Outsider is just another blip on the B-movie radar.