Outlaws is the antithesis of Murder One. Instead of an overpaid, smartly dressed team of elite, articulate American attorneys, tackling sexy, high profile capital cases, you have Bagnall & Dunbar, a two man excuse for a legal practise at the arse end of Greater Manchester, handling family disputes and petty criminals in the local magistrate's court.

There is nothing remotely glamorous about this, unless the abrasive, fiercely ambitious prosecuting counsel Sarah Beckenham (Georgia Mackenzie) turns you on. The work is relentlessly mundane, often desperate in domestic terms, deeply cynical and exhausting. The money is Legally Aided (abysmal), respect for clients haphazard at best ("Expect the little bastards to gob in your face") and justice a distant memory from some half-remembered fairy story.

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The writing (Steve Coombes and associates) is as witty as a whiplash.

"You've got a small prick and a big mouth, Dunbar," Sarah snaps. "I prefer it the other way round."

Political correctness is pissed on from a great height.

As well as an insight into the tricks of the trade and the way lawyers and police operate on a quid pro quo basis, colluding in low level corruption as the only method of making an overstressed system appear even partially workable, Outlaws is anti-fashion and therefore street smart. What gives the series lifeblood is excellent writing, inspired acting and good characters.

Bruce Dunbar would be thrown out of charm school. He lives on adrenaline, shitty food, whisky and a dogged determination to beat the f***ers, whoever and wherever they are. He's like a feral creature that once lived on dustbin delecacies. Now he runs to stay in one place, secretly suspecting that his life is a failure, if not a farce, and yet retaining an understated integrity that is magnificently expressed in words of four letters by Phil Daniels.

Theodore Gulliver, sensitively played by Ray Emmet Brown, could hardly be further from Dunbar's extrovert abrasiveness. He is young and idealistic, conscientious and considerate - at least, at the start. He is also black, privately educated and naive.

"I want to make a difference," he tells Sarah in an unguarded moment.

"I love it when you talk dirty."

He learns fast. Sometimes it is a painful experience. Very much the outsider, shy and well mannered, he has an inner strength that withstands Dunbar's withering tongue.

"She thinks you are very articulate," Dunbar tells him about an elderly client.

"What does that mean?"

"You're a black man who won't steal her handbag."

The rules have been rewritten. In Outlaws, they say what they think and what they think is a far cry from the hopes and dreams of middle England.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2005
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Outlaws - Series 1 packshot
The desperate life of lawyers at the Legal Aid end of criminal justice.
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Director: Harry Bradbeer, Richard Laxton, John Alexander

Writer: Steve Coombes, Jimmy Gardner, Richard Zajdlic, Anita Pandolfo, Tony Basgallop

Starring: Phil Daniels, Ray Emmet Brown, Georgia Mackenzie, Annabelle Apsion, Danny Cunningham, Craig Parkinson, Rebekah Staton, Connor McIntyre, Andrew Readman, Mary Cunningham

Year: 2004

Runtime: 660 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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