Directed by Sean McEwen, "American Outlaws" offers a dramatized account of the life of the Dougherty siblings—Dylan, Lee-Grace, and Ryan—inspired by a real 2012 case. Starring Emory Cohen, Sam Strike, and India Eisley, the film unfolds an intense, eight-day manhunt, offering a stark critique of the American societal structure that marginalizes the poor.
Set in Lacoochee, Florida, the Dougherty family comprises of twins Dylan and Lee-Grace, and their younger sibling, Ryan. They perpetually clash with local law enforcement and embody societal stereotypes of "trailer park" families. After Ryan breaches his parole terms by sending inappropriate texts, his parole officer delivers a stern warning. In a bid to avoid a 15-year sentence, especially with a child on the way, Dylan proposes an audacious plan—a cross-country escapade.
Without much persuasion, the siblings embark on this risky journey. Dylan plans for Ryan's girlfriend and unborn son to join them later. Their words are full of ideals of "freedom" and "family," but trouble ensues shortly. A routine traffic stop escalates when Dylan fires at a police vehicle. Fueled by a twisted sense of urgency, they hatch a plan to rob a bank and succeed in eluding the police.
A car change is next on their list. While the brothers negotiate a deal, Lee-Grace gets involved in an unsavory exchange for narcotics. When her partner grows impatient with her talk of an idyllic life, she incapacitates him with a wrench and urges her brothers to flee.
By this point, the manhunt spans multiple states and captures media attention. When Ryan unwittingly chats with a gas station clerk while his face flashes on the news, he senses danger. Law enforcement officials are closing in, fueled by multiple leads.
A chance encounter with a kindly older couple offers a momentary refuge, but the radio news shatters the illusion. Despite Lee-Grace's pleas, Dylan points his gun at their hosts. Yet, a moment of unexpected mercy from the elderly man makes Dylan waver. The trio continues their journey to Colorado, where they've long wished to go.
Even as detectives follow them to Colorado, a haunting past resurfaces in Dylan's thoughts. A subsequent altercation with a camping family finally brings the law to their doorstep. The siblings, bound by an unbreakable bond, decide to confront their fate together. A police chase ensues, ending in their capture. Surprisingly, despite brandishing weapons, they're arrested without fatal consequences.
The closing sequences reveal the siblings were sentenced to a total of 179 years behind bars. Dylan's attempted escape from prison reaffirms their inability to come to terms with their life sentences. The judge's final remarks underscore the miraculous absence of fatalities throughout the chaotic events.
"American Outlaws" serves as a chilling narrative, both of criminal actions and of systemic failures. The Dougherty siblings, products of a fractured American Dream, leave viewers pondering the complexities of justice and societal neglect.