New Releases: Out of Exile (2023) - Reviewed

Kyle Kauwika Harris' latest offering is the meanest motor scooter in the rec room.  Out of Exile is a triumph, a crime saga that homages the genre, blending elements from the giants of the pantheon and then distilling them through a quiet dirge that focuses on the moments in between.  What suspiciously appears as a heist story is revealed to be a rumination on family, loyalty, and the inescapable truth of the sins of past. Featuring an outrageously talented ensemble, brutal violence, and gritty lived in dialogue, this is the first great film of the year.

Gabe is a recently paroled criminal who returns to the life of high stakes heists while simultaneously trying to repair decades of familial discord.  After a job goes awry and the law begins to hunt his crew, Gabe decides to risk it all on one last job in order to escape the life.  Harris' script is one of the most potent elements of the film.  While it initially appears as derivative, the narrative them twists away from genre expectations in exchange for quiet slices of life, between the jobs, allowing each character to become something real, someone whom the viewer can't help but care about.  Adam Hampton stars as Gabe, giving what is easily the best performance of the year thus far.  His chemistry with his cast mates is intoxicating, walking off the screen and into the subconscious, deviously lowering the viewer into the south-central United States criminal underworld with ease.   Harris's world is a nightmare playground, filled with memorable souls who range from flawed law enforcers to criminal scumbags, with each person brought to life under careful direction and unassailable commitment to the material.  Ryan Merriman supports as FBI Agent Solomon who harries Gabe's crew relentlessly, showing Merriman's talent in a humorous mix of jaded acceptance and dogged determination.  WWF Superstar Jake "The Snake" Roberts has a vicious cameo, while Hayley Mcfarland's turn as Gabe's estranged daughter is perhaps the heart of the narrative.  The crown jewel however, is Peter Greene (The Usual Suspects) who stars as Rader, Gabe's nefarious fence.  Greene's chemistry, with Hampton and Kyle Jacob Henry (Gabe's reckless younger brother) is the fabric of legend.  Greene doesn't chew scenery, he annihilates it, completely losing himself within Rader's appalling psyche.  

Charles Elmore's muscular cinematography shines throughout.  Many films seek to bifurcate the two worlds, the criminal and the mundane, however, Elmore's attentive eye blends the two, allowing the dangers of each to coexist in a southern daydream where bullets, oil changes, and dilapidated homes reflect the American Dream, or perhaps the memory of it.  This is the essence of Out of Exile.   While the crime saga aspects are the thoroughfare, it is the world around it that is of import.  These are flawed, but mostly decent people trying to make sense of a world they had no choice of being born into and the way in which it is presented is masterful.  While comparisons to Heat and The Town are unavoidable, the magic is that Harris and his crew have built something entirely unique and engaging from the DNA of these genre titans.  Smaller budgeted pictures are always victims of circumstance and the way Harris uses his crew to sidestep these expected limitations is awe inducing.  

The final ingredient is Corey Perschbacher's score, which is the perfect accoutrement to Harris' Shakespearean foray into the Oklahoma underworld.  This is a magical experience because it is people from the community, who live in it every day putting their soul into a story about second chances and the inability to avoid fate, themes with are accented by Perschbaker's somber musical narration.  The result?   A unique, one of kind crime thriller that holds no hands and takes no mercy. 

In theaters now and also available for digital streaming, Out of Exile is an extremely different entry into the bank robbery genre.  Buoyed by Hampton's unforgettable magnetism and anchored by Harris' unmistakable love for his homeland and the medium, this is full tilt boogie filmmaking at its finest.  


-Kyle Jonathan