There are certain actors where perception can transcend reality. For Nicolas Cage, it’s often the wild, unhinged performances in bad movies, often overlooking his better work in Adaptation or Raising Arizona. To many people he’s nothing more than meme. For entirely different reasons Hayden Christensen is afflicted in a similar manner. To even mention his name in the vicinity of a Star Wars fan is to induce impassioned rants of rage and jokes about cardboard. Like Jake Lloyd before him, Christensen became the obvious punching bag for hatred because he was prevalent the whole time. But in both their defense, who was good in any of the prequels? That’s what I thought. The two, sometimes unfairly, maligned actors team up in Outcast, an international production backed by American, Chinese, and Canadian companies.
The film opens during the Crusades, Jacob (Christensen) and Gallian (Cage) are carrying out an invasion of Baghdad. Jacob is assured in his own righteousness while Gallian is war weary and thinking of escaping east. Then we flashforward 3 years, and the film takes us to China, where a sick king bequeaths his throne to the youngest son. But the king’s eldest son, Shing (Andy On), desires the thrones and will resort to devious means to make it his own. The young prince must go on the run with his sister, Lian (Yifel Liu), in order to preserve the kingdom and her father’s dying wishes. With Shing’s army searching high and low, Lian tries to secure a guide to protect them. Their search yields Jacob, who has lost his righteous edge and picked up an opium habit. Despite his vices, Jacob excels and protecting Lian and her younger brother. Shortly after being betrayed, Jacob is wounded and Lian and the prince are captured by a mysterious clan. It turns out this clan is run by Gallian, who now goes by the moniker The White Ghost. Bad blood runs between Gallian and Jacob, as Gallian turned his back on the Crusades and has made a successful living as an outlaw. But cooler heads prevail and they form an alliance to make a last stand against Shing and his men.
Let’s get this out of the way: Outcast isn’t a very good movie nor is it awful. If one enters the film accepting it for what it is, a B movie, you can get enough fun out of it. In a lot of aspects, production design and some of the cinematography, Outcast looked a lot better than I expected. In other aspects, mainly the action sequences, it played down to expectations. First time director Nick Powell, who has worked decades as a stuntman, keeps the action sequences chaotic and dizzying, sometimes tossing in slow motion shots amidst the spastic camera work for no discernable reason. Many of the swordfights are well choreographed in front of the camera, it’s the work behind the camera that keeps the action uninteresting. The script by James Dorner is fairly straightforward and focuses on the film maintaining its B movie momentum.
As a B movie, Outcast is passable. With some so-so action sequences, bad dubbing, and Nicolas Cage, it’s already better than Seventh Son. For Cage fans: Nicolas Cage only has a few scenes in the beginning and the end, but he shows up and chews scenery. His graveled British accent isn’t necessarily good, it’s just very Cagey. Hayden Christensen provides the proper performance for this kind of movie. He’s not great, he’s not bad, but it mostly works. Outcast doesn’t elicit groans or cheers. It’s just a B movie with Nicolas Cage.