'Outcast': Film Review

Nicolas Cage continues his career free-fall

Former Crusaders battle the forces of an evil usurper to the throne in this 12th century China-set epic.

Representing one of the more egregious examples of a performer not being given his due, Nicolas Cage has never won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. This, after being nominated numerous times for such career defining efforts as The Wicker Man, Ghost Rider, Drive Angry and Season of the Witch, among others. The good news is that the actor seems a shoo-in to win next year, thanks to his wildly campy turn in Outcast, the 12th century China-set adventure in which he plays a former Crusader known as "The White Ghost." That is, if his co-star Hayden Christensen, doing equally deserving god-awful work, doesn't beat him out for the prize, especially since he has twice the screen time.

After an intense, battle-filled prologue set in the "Middle East" where we're introduced to world-weary Crusaders Jacob (Christensen) and his mentor Gallain (Cage), the action shifts three years later to the "Far East." There a Chinese king makes the unfortunate mistake of picking his youngest son Zhao (Bill Su Jiahang) to succeed him rather than Zhao's older brother Shing (Andy On). Hastening the succession process along, Shing kills his father and dispatches his murderous Black Guards to pursue his fleeing teenage sibling and their sister Lian (Lie Yifei).

The pair soon comes into contact with the disaffected, opium-addicted Jacob, who apparently has the same hair stylist as Justin Bieber. He reluctantly takes them under his protective wing, teaching Zhao how to use a bow and arrow and providing lessons to Lian of a more amorous kind.

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The film perks up considerably around the one-hour mark with the reappearance of Cage's Gallain, sporting an equally outrageous coiffure and squinting through one eye like Popeye. Affecting a stylized British accent, the actor manages to outdo Charles Laughton in terms of hamminess, never more so than when he thoughtfully scratches his chin with the snake wrapped around his wrist and bellows "Where's my wine?" in a gravelly voice.

Marking the directorial debut of veteran stunt coordinator Nicholas Powell, the film features endless sword and knife battles that fail to make an impact despite their freneticism. It does, however, offer gorgeously scenic Chinese locations that probably account for why Cage and Christensen agreed to participate. It's a China/Canada/France co-production, demonstrating that movie companies seem far more cooperative than governments.

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Early in the film, Jacob says to Gallain, "You're not the man you once were," receiving the reply "None of us are." Considering the unfortunate state of these actors' careers, the exchange takes on an all too sad relevance.

Production: Notorious Films, 22h22, Media Max Productions
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Nicolas Cage, Liu Yifei, Andy On, Bill Su Jiahang, Anoja Dias Bolt, Jike Junyi
Director: Nicholas Powell
Screenwriter: James Dormer
Producers: Alan Zhang, Jeremy Bolt, Christopher Milburn, Karine Martin, Gary Hamilton, Ying Ye, George Mizen, Leonard Glowinski, Tove Christensen, Xun Zhang
Executive producers: Mark Canton, Mike Gabrawy, Mark Slone, Jean-Francois Doray, Elise Boulet, Marc Charette, Li Qiyan, Andrew Mann
Director of photography: Joel Ransom
Production designers: Nigel Churcher, Yang Haoyu
Editor: Nicolas Trembasiewicz
Costume designers: Zhu Yongfeng, Zhu Yongzhong
Composer: Guillaume Roussel
Casting: PoPing AuYeung

No rating, 98 minutes