The poster boasts of two stars whose careers have had better days in the past: Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. I had a feeling this would be a bad film the moment I heard of this casting. Strangely though, this combination of two fallen stars still gave me an odd compulsion to see what they can come up with together.
Hayden Christensen made a big splash when he was given the role of young Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel films. Unfortunately, Christensen proved less than capable of pulling the iconic role off, and his acting career had stagnated since then. The downward trajectory Nicolas Cage's career has been the stuff of much dismay for his fans. This was a guy who had an Oscar early in his career, but now he is just constantly wallowing in B-movie hamminess. Will their collaboration in "Outcast" help them climb out of their career ruts?
"Outcast" opens in 12th century in the Middle East where crusading knights were "doing the work of God" by mercilessly slaughtering the Islamic "infidels" who did not share their faith. They were led by the young ruthless Jacob (Hayden Christensen) and his mentor Gallain (Nicolas Cage). Jacob and Gallain had a falling out after a particularly violent encounter that involved women and children.
After title card, the scene suddenly shifts to imperial China! A sick emperor was endorsing his kingdom over to his younger, more intellectual son Qiang. Meanwhile his brash and very violent older son Shing believes the kingdom is his birthright and will not accept no other kings except himself.
Now, how do the jaded crusaders Jacob and Gallain get themselves involved in this brotherly squabble for the throne of China? I will just have to leave that for you to watch this movie and find out for yourself.
Unfortunately, long acting hiatus notwithstanding, Hayden Christensen continues to be such a bland actor. He could not seem to connect with the character, resulting in a wooden performance with no spark at all. Here in "Outcast", a huge part of his role was supposedly under the influence of opium or alcohol, so he can use that as an excuse for lousy acting. His unremarkable acting in this will not exactly resurrect his dormant career.
Nicolas Cage wears an atrocious wig and uses an atrocious accent here. I do not know why he gets stuck with roles like this, when we know he could do so much better than this. To Cage's credit, maybe only he can pull off this relentlessly thankless and embarrassing role and give it some spunk, hammy as it may be. At least, he tries to give his role some life, cheesy as it may be.
The Chinese actors all did very well, keeping the dignity of the Chinese royal family that they play. Shi Liang played a serene dying Emperor. Andy On registered strongly as the intimidating elder brother Prince Shing. Pretty Yifei Liu played their sister Lian, to whom the Emperor entrusted to protect the heir apparent. It is just to bad that she had to also play the love interest of Jacob, but of course that was predictable from the moment they set eyes on each other.
"Outcast" is not really all that bad as it would seem. There was an effort in the area of production design to recreate the setting of the story. With Christensen underacting and Cage overacting, I was glad the Chinese cast was there to keep this film from totally capsizing. On the other hand, you can also add this film to the list of "White Savior" films where it seems other races could only settle their problems when there is a white man around to save them. 4/10.
This review was originally published on the author's blog, Fred Said.