The Outsider Blu-ray Review

A jaded look at the IRA and their fight against the British in this drama

Disillusioned by his experience in Vietnam, an Irish-American moves to Ireland and joins the IRA. The Outsider is a mature, political drama based on Colin Leinster’s novel, The Heritage of Michael Flaherty. Writer/director Tony Luraschi constructs an intimate, personal deconstruction of the IRA with skepticism aimed at both sides of the violent conflict. The character-driven drama from 1980 is a fine movie limited by its niche appeal.

Craig Wasson (Ghost Story) stars as Michael Flaherty, a young man looking for something to believe in after his time in Vietnam. An American by birth, Michael grows up hearing tales from his Irish grandfather about Ireland. Inspired by the Irish Republican Army’s cause of an unified Ireland free from British rule, Michael volunteers to be a member.

He’s a stranger in a strange world, an American in Ireland fighting for the IRA. Hence the movie being named The Outsider. Michael is an enthusiastic true believer in their cause. Most of the Irish view him with suspicion and mistrust as an American.

When it becomes politically expedient for them, the IRA’s leadership decides they can use Michael’s status as an American in Belfast for their own gain. A powder keg fraught with peril in Northern Ireland, he’s welcomed into the local IRA group. What Michael doesn’t know is that he’s a mere pawn for the IRA. Michael’s life is meaningless to them as a naive American.

Wasson is underwhelming in his starring role compared to the remaining cast of Irish character actors.

The IRA was perfectly willing to commit political violence to achieve their goals and the British classified them as terrorists. The Outsider doesn’t shy away from the violent conflict seen between the IRA and British, or the natural hostility between Catholics and Protestants in this region. This is all framed by the interpersonal drama experienced by Michael and the IRA members he meets in Ireland. Michael becomes friendly with Siobhan (Patricia Quinn), an Irish woman in Belfast that has grown weary of the violence and deaths wrought by the IRA.

Members of the cast includes Sterling Hayden (1900), Patricia Quinn (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Ray McAnally (My Left Foot) and Gabriel Byrne (The End of Violence). Wasson is underwhelming in his starring role compared to the remaining cast of Irish character actors. While his lead performance is certainly competent, Wasson is no powerhouse and seems over-matched in several scenes. The experienced cast give far more convincing performances. The movie isn’t hurt by this disparity in the end.

Political drama always walks a fine line with accurately portraying history and telling a compelling story. The Outsider is a mature, personal approach to the IRA and its sordid history in the Seventies. Questioning the motivations for both sides and painting unsympathetic portrayals for each, the movie smartly focuses on Michael’s evolving journey. This is intelligent entertainment primarily intended for those with interest in this period of the IRA’s history.

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Video

Licensed from Paramount by Olive Films, The Outsider appears on home video in North America for the first time. Struck from an older telecine effort, the transfer has limited effective resolution. This 1080P Blu-ray presentation is adequate for its soft cinematography but this is underwhelming video quality.

The main feature runs 122 minutes on a BD-25, encoded in AVC. The AVC video shows flashes of chroma noise, minor sharpening, and below-average grain reproduction. It is presented at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

The elements are in largely undamaged condition with few signs of noticeable debris. A hint of telecine wobble is evident for sharp-eyed viewers. Limited shadow delineation occasionally becomes a problem in the darkest shots. The contrast is dull and flat. Like most transfers struck from secondary elements, color saturation is faint and could be improved. Flesh-tones are fairly neutral. A remastered transfer would have likely made them warmer.

Some will think The Outsider looks poor but this is certainly a serviceable presentation, limited by the dated transfer.

Audio

Composer Ken Thorne provides an excellent score for The Outsider, heard in a 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The mono mix includes fine clarity and perfect dialogue reproduction. The drama has a few scenes packed with larger theatrical moments, including explosions and gunfire. Compared to the video, this audio has turned out far better.

Optional English SDH subtitles display in a white font.

Extras

No special features have been included on this disc.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

  • The Outsider
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Summary

An intimate political drama depicting the internal politics of the IRA in the Seventies.

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