Deliciously dark with intricate plotting and sharp writing, THE OUT-LAWS chronicles the comedy of errors as four sisters plan increasingly elaborate ways to offer fate a helping hand in killing off their obnoxious brother-in-law, a man who just won't seem to die.
Jean-Claude Delcorps (Husband to Goedele, father to Bloeme) accountant at a successful Belgian company. Loathsome bully, ethically corrupt, truly unconscionable. A man unconcerned with making enemies, and with a seemingly endless number of lives.
That’s not entirely true. As the series opens in the sleepy Belgian countryside, his family and friends come together to bury the man himself after his luck runs out. Tears are shed, the cast of characters - and they are many and varied introduced, and we begin to get a feeling for what is to come.
There is a certain intricacy to the plotting to The Out-Laws that is not initially apparent. The premiere, though not without its redeeming features, doesn’t help. If the series has a weakness, it’s the opener, entitled Blood Ties; though running at almost an hour, it still feels convoluted, as though the writers have tried too hard to lay the foundations for what will follow. That is not to say that it is not without its redeeming scenes. In fact, I found there were moments when it reminded me of Frank Oz’s excellent 2007 black comedy Death at a Funeral. Though opening at a funeral might explain that.
Please don’t be put off by the premiere, or the intermittent flashbacks that occur a little too often as the series acquaints us with its central character. Once the stage is set, and for the most part it is by the end of the opener, these become almost seamlessly transitioned in and out of as the series progress and reveal, episode-by-episode, how the four central characters, Jean-Claude’s sisters-in-law, found themselves in their current predicament.
It’s these protagonists that set the wheels in motion after being pushed a little too far, and decide to end his reign of terror once and for all. As the eldest of the sisters, Eva, states early on, “people are killed by accidents every day. We just have to give fate a helping hand.” Sounds simple. If only.
The sisters discover just how slippery slope a killing off their brother-in-law is, and as he survives one ‘accident’ after another, it simply gets harder – and funnier – as the next accident is more elaborately planned than the last. An explosion, poison, a hitman and suicide: what could possibly go wrong? Honestly? Pretty much anything that could, to such an extent that you could draw some comparisons to the classic 1955 film The Ladykillers.
In the present day, hot on the sisters’ tail are insurance agents Thomas and Matthias, struggling to keep their late father’s business afloat, and his fraudulent activities concealed. Initially appearing as bumbling as Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau, particularly in the premiere, we watch as their self-preservation instincts lead them to uncover more of the ‘accidents’ that occurred prior to Jean-Claude’s demise, and begin to put the pieces together.
Lastly, you have the deceased himself. Despite being an utterly despicable human being, it’s Jean-Claude who offers some of the best comic moments. Though beginning to suspect something is amiss, it doesn’t prevent him from sinking to new lows, and whilst some of these border on abhorrent, there’s something deliciously dark about the character that will entertain anyone whose humour is bordering on the black side. The impact of these moments, though seemingly unrelated to his demise, do become more apparent as the series approaches its denouement, and you begin to wonder: just who did kill Jean-Claude?
The Out-Laws might not have the same dramatic tautness of twists and turns as The Killing or The Bridge, Instead, though billed as a dramatic comedy, and though not sparse in dramatic moments, it relies on the humour, which grows progressively darker to carry what is a strong plot, certainly stronger than anything in its genre that Britain has produced over past few years. An excellent way to lose yourself as the nights draw in and winter approaches.