‘American Outlaws’ (2023) Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Is It Based On A True Story?

Directed by Sean McEwen, American Outlaws is based on the real-life events of a bank robbery and other associated felonies committed by three siblings, Dylan, Lee-Grace, and Ryan Dougherty. Starring Emory Cohen, Sam Strike, and India Eisley in the lead roles, the film is based on the 2012 case of the Dougherty siblings, who took the police on an 8-day chase after committing a string of felonies. The movie dramatizes certain incidents, but, in the end, it’s a deeper look into the hollow façade of the ‘American’ way of life, where the poor are always treated as second-class citizens, leading to children growing up with a lot of anger and issues in their hearts. Here’s everything that happens in the 2023 action thriller American Outlaws.

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Spoilers Ahead


Who are the Dougherty siblings?

In the hinterland of Lacoochee, Florida, twin siblings Dylan and Lee-Grace and their younger brother Ryan are the average ‘white trash’ who always find one way or another to get on the nerves of the local authorities. When Ryan is found in violation of his parole after sending inappropriate text messages to a minor, his parole officer threatens he’ll have to sort the mess out unless he wants to spend 15 years in prison. With his girlfriend Amber about to give birth, ending up in jail is the last thing Ryan wants, so their hot-headed brother Dylan offers an alternative. He suggests a family vacation where the three of them drive into the sunset or some country in South America, whichever is closer.

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It doesn’t take too much convincing for Lee-Grace or Ryan, seeing as how the sister is a junkie/stripper and her brother is a good-for-nothing. Dylan suggests sending for Ryan’s girlfriend and the son after settling into their new home. Thus begins the cross-country trip, with a lot of “American-made” and “family” being thrown around.


How do the Dougherty siblings find trouble?

Much like how moths can’t avoid falling into flames, similarly, the Dougherty siblings couldn’t go very far before attracting trouble. While speeding down the freeway, their car is pulled over by a random police car for going over the speed limit, but Dylan decides to single-handedly make things difficult. He shoots at the police car, which is immediately a way worse felony than just speeding. Soon, by some messed-up sibling logic, the siblings decide they should rob a bank for the money they need to set up a new life. With Dylan’s assault rifle, a shotgun, and a handgun, the siblings rob a bank and escape before the police arrive.

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The Doughertys then decide to ditch their car and buy a new one, and as the brothers are negotiating a deal with the store owner, Lee-Grace is trying to buy a new car when she’s approached by the store owner’s son. Soon, Lee-Grace is engaged in sexual action with the young man in exchange for drugs, a part of the ‘deal’ they had. However, Lee-Grace can’t stop talking about the perfect life she wants: a housewife, married with kids, and cooking for her husband. The dealer is annoyed with her ramblings, and things turn violent when she refuses to continue. Lee-Grace hits him on the head with a wrench and flees, asking her brothers to leave immediately.


What Happens at the Elderly Couples’ House?

By now, the police officers of Florida, Georgia, and associated states are looking for the siblings, with their mugshots being posted on CNN and every major news channel across the country. When Ryan heartily begins talking about his soon-to-arrive son to a gas station attendant, seeing himself and his siblings on the news makes him worried. With two detectives chasing down every trail of the siblings, including the man who forced himself on Lee Grace, the siblings need to find shelter immediately.

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The Doughertys flag down the car of an elderly couple passing by, and the woman invites them over for pie. Unaccustomed to such kindness, Lee-Grace can’t stop gushing about her family and is immediately glad to have met such a kind couple, but the news of the siblings on the radio alerts the hosts. Dylan whips out his pistol and demands that Ryan take his sister to the car while he finishes off the witnesses. Despite Lee-Grace’s earnest protests, Dylan kept his gun aimed at the couple, but when the time came to pull the trigger, the retired Navy man’s forgiveness made Dylan hesitate. He returned to the car, and they drove off to Colorado, where the siblings had wanted to go for a long time.


How do the detectives locate the Doughertys?

The detectives arrive at the elderly couple’s residence, where the woman says she’d heard Lee Grace mention that she’d want to go to Colorado, and that’s where the detectives head. Meanwhile, after a day of frolicking in the cool waters of a lake and reminiscing about their childhood, when night comes, reality sets in. Dylan remembers how their family was torn apart by the abusive people who came in and hurt his siblings, and he hallucinates his brother and sister being abused. He stumbles upon a campsite, finds some materials there, and asks his siblings to come help. Although they’d planned to leave money for whatever they took, the campsite owners, a family with a young child walking in, foiled the plans. Dylan wants to tie the family up, but Lee-Grace protests by pointing the gun at her twin. Ryan asks the family to escape, and soon, the cops are alerted to the latest crime committed by the siblings.


How do the Doughertys make peace?

The siblings finally agree after years on one thing: that they shall stick with one another till the end of times, no matter what happens, because it’s always been them since they can remember. While driving down the road to Mexico, their car is trailed by a cop car, and soon more follow. The siblings don’t understand if they should turn themselves in, but Ryan decides to go out of their way, and after a spike strip crashes their car, the siblings storm out, guns in hand. It’s strange that this happened in reality; the siblings aren’t immediately riddled with holes just for holding a gun before cops in America, but they manage to get a few shots in the air before being arrested. Dylan is wounded and then cuffed; Lee-Grace is pinned down as well, and Ryan runs to the edge of the cliff and is then forced to surrender as well. Before being taken away in separate cars, the siblings caw at each other like crows, their way of signaling to each other that nothing will tear them apart.


What Happens to the Dougherty Siblings in the End?

Real news clippings and title cards shown after the movie inform us that the siblings were given cumulatively 179 years in prison. However, Dylan tried to make an escape from the prison and even got out of his cell to deliver a note to his sister that he’d be breaking her out as well. There was no news of the youngest sibling, Ryan, but even today, the siblings haven’t accepted the fact that they’re in jail. The judge who awarded them their punishment after their 8-day crime spree declared that it was a miracle that no one was killed in this wild cross-country chase the Doughtery siblings took the cops to.

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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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