While Weir story is at the heart of “Miranda’s Victim,” there is no such rooting interest for the fugitives in “American Outlaws,” which belongs to the “only in America” true crime subgenre. That’s the tack that GQ writer Kathy Dobie took in her long-form piece, “The Whole True Story of the Dougherty Gang,” which was the basis for this taut and gritty screen adaptation.
For all the talk of family in “American Outlaws,” you might think you were watching a “Fast and the Furious” spinoff. But what a family: siblings Ryan, Dylan, and Lee-Grace Dougherty had the media following their every move in 2011 when they embarked on a crime spree that began in Florida and ended in a shootout in Colorado, with a South Georgia bank hold-up and other random acts of terror in between. No one was killed, which their judge termed a miracle. They were sentenced to a collective 179 years in prison.
The Doughertys typify the “us” that Jim Thompson wrote about in “The Killer Inside Me”: “All of us that started the game with a crooked cue, that wanted so much and got so little, that meant so good and did so bad.”
What Dylan (Sam Strike) did was exchange texts with an underage girl, a misunderstanding, he claimed). (Much like the film of “In Cold Blood” skipped over the bit where Dick and Perry swerve their car to hit a dog, so does this movie leave out the detail that he thought the girl was 13 years-old; she was 11).
This was a parole violation that threatened to ultimately send him to prison due to a technicality—there was no mail service where they lived in Lacoochee, Florida, and Dylan needed two pieces of mail to obtain an ID that would depict the sex offender status that, with his girlfriend about to give birth to their child, would prevent him from participating in family activities where other children would be present.
Ryan (Emory Cohen), his older brother, impulsively hatched a plan for himself, Dylan and Dylan’s twin sister, Lee Grace (India Eisley), a stripper and drug addict, to make a run for the border. It all goes wrong quickly, when the police flag their car for speeding and gunfire is exchanged.