Abdelkader becomes radicalised against the French occupation, Messaoud serves in the French army fighting in Indochina only to join his brother’s cause upon his return, whilst Said denounces politics entirely and devotes his life to morally questionable business ventures. Though perhaps best enjoyed as a stylised multi-layered thriller, Outside The Law’s success is tempered by its moral subtexts. A politically charged affair, the film largely benefits from an understanding of its historical context, something that will no doubt be somewhat lacking for the vast majority of British viewers at least.
Outside The Law’s overtly anti-colonial message marks the film out as a damning indictment of a period in French colonial history greatly under represented in cinema and Bouchareb is clearly passionate about conveying these atrocities and their long-term effects bluntly. But for the most part, Bouchareb appears to waylay his political subtext for his cinematic aspirations, pooling influences from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola and Sergio Leone to create a film that ultimately represents a somewhat uneven mish-mash of genres.
Though Bouchareb’s primary intention may be to entertain, there’s no denying that the subtext is somewhat inflammatory, particularly given his apparent decision to liken the independence activists to the French resistance movement against the Nazi regime, which has already courted controversy among many French critics who have gone on to raise questions over the film’s historical accuracy and authenticity. Nevertheless, Bouchareb’s directorial flair and knack for crafting taut scenes of action ensure that Outside The Law is a compellingly well-crafted thriller, albeit one mired by heavy handed and divisive politics.