ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
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their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

American Outlaws (2001), PG-13
CAP Score: 51
CAP Influence Density: 1.31

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NOTE: If you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is purely objective and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.


If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

AMERICAN OUTLAWS (PG-13) -- hung for being a traitor to the US government's eminent domain..

I do not know whether the James gang of our western history came from a Missouri band of rangers doing battle with the Bluecoats (Yankees). I do not know whether the historical James gang started a war with the railroadmen. And I don't know whether the Pinkerton detectives killed ranchers for refusing to sell land to the railroad. But that is what *American Outlaws* is about.

Irish star Colin Farrell plays the child-faced Jesse James. Jesse is a terror with two guns. Through a leadership role in a band of rangers fighting the North in the Civil War, Jesse forms a bond with several of the men with whom he served the South who form the core of the James gang: Jesse's older and wiser brother, Frank (Gabriel Macht) - the marksman; Cole Younger (Scott Caan, the Sean Penn type) and his brothers, Bob (Will McCormack) and Jim (Gregory Smith).

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After a successful battle with the troops of the North, Jesse and the core of his band run into a regiment of confederate soldiers who tell Jesse and his band the war was over. Jesse and his entourage decide to head home to see what was left. Arriving in Liberty, Missouri they find home an army-occupied territory with a dead man hanging by the neck. Jesse and Frank also find Zee Mimms (Ali Larter) and her father Doctor Mimms (Ronnie Cox) living in fear. Even Jesse's mother (Kathy Bates) was fearful, even through the masterful comic and highly positive, never aging, always motherly style of Bates.

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The right of eminent domain. This was the power of the federal government that had everyone so fearful. Railroad magnate, Thaddeus Rains (Harris Yulin) was bent on building a railroad through Missouri, including many ranches owned by Liberty residents, including Jesse James and Frank Younger. through shenanigans with the US Army of the day, Rains invoked the right of imminent domain and confiscated, at a "fair price", much of the land in and about Liberty, Missouri. One man tried to fight the "progress" ad would not sell his land to the railroad barons He was hung for being a traitor to the US government's eminent domain claim to the land. Rains hired the famous Pinkerton detective agency to find and kill Jesse James and the James gang. Colonel Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton) launched all-out war against the James gang.
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In a town meeting with Dr. Mimms officiating, Jesse and company scrutinize what Rains, Pinkerton and the federal government are doing and decide to fight the "progress." And Jesse smiled.

There is more to the plot, as thin as it is. But it is not my focus to spoil movies. My focus is to reveal to you, mom/dad and grandma/grandpa the truth about the content of movies so YOU can make an informed decision by your own standards whether a flick is fit for viewing. Some of the truth about the content of *American Outlaws* included 35 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary [1Pet. 3:10] plus one use of God's name in vain *with* the four letter expletive [Deut. 5:11]. Sexual content was limited mainly to innuendo and stories of sexual conquest with one instance of open mouth kissing [Eph. 5:4]. There was drinking and booze plus gambling and some mockery of Jesus and faith works [Gal. 6:7], but the main content of *American Outlaws* was violence and theft, graphic violence [Ps. 11:5}. Not so much graphic as in gore and blood but in the sheer volume of "lesser" issues of violence and crime in order to get the "effect" of R in a rating of PG-13 (see http://www.capalert/.com/r-13.htm>. And of course, little to no consequences were to be found. Indeed, the nefarious outlaw Jesse James was portrayed as quite the good guy: the "Robin Hood" of Liberty, Missouri.
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I do want to make a specific observation of this movie. Some comments in the movie were clearly making fun of faith in Jesus by making Ma James a "Scripture-quotin' Bible-thumper." But when the Pinkerton thugs blew up her house with her in it, as she died she commented something to the effect "He [Jesus] is shorter than I thought He'd be." The way this comment touched me was very positive and fulfilling. Maybe it, too, was a mockery but if it was its counterfeit status escaped me. I received it more as portrayal of seeing our Lord as we, the believers, give up our own ghost. Y'know, the Light at the end of the tunnel?

As always, the listing of findings in the Findings/Scoring section will give you the best application of this analysis model to this movie.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • 1 Pet. 3:10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue [language] from evil [of a bad nature], and his lips that they speak no guile:
  • 1Pet. 3:10 For, Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain [shav' {shawv}: emptiness, nothingness, vanity]: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless [naqah {naw-kaw'} :blameless, innocent] that taketh his name in vain.
  • Eph. 5:4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
  • Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked [mukterizo {mook-tay-rid'-zo}: to turn up the nose or sneer at, deride]. A man reaps what he sows.
  • Ps. 11:5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.

    *******Food for Thought*******
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]

    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.

    FINDINGS / SCORING: American Outlaws (2001) CAP Thermometers

    NOTE: Multiple occurrences of each item described below may be likely, definitely when plural.

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • long graphic sequence of battle with deaths
  • man hanging by the neck
  • talk of murders
  • firearm threats, many
  • gunfire injury with blood splatter
  • much gunfire, both offensive and defensive
  • death threats
  • planning assaults
  • armed robbery, several
  • gambling
  • gunfire deaths, many, some graphic (not considered murder since they were due to warfare or other military/police action)
  • many attempts to kill by gunfire, explosion, other
  • fighting
  • arson, several
  • reckless gunfire

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • 35 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • lusting to kill
  • flippant talk of killing
  • theft from a dead body

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • sexual innuendo
  • stories of sexual conquest and other issues of immorality
  • inappropriate touch (not seen)
  • open mouth kissing
  • encouraging sexual immorality
  • prostitution

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • smoking
  • drinking

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • mockery of Jesus and faith works
  • one use of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive and three without

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • murder of a mother by explosion

    NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I aplaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our five-year study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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