The feature directorial debut of stunt coordinator Nick Powell, 2014's Outcast begins with an opening scene in which two hardened swordsmen, the elder Gallain (Nicolas Cage) and a younger man named Jacob (Hayden Christensen) are embroiled in a fierce battle during the Crusades. From here, we skip ahead a few years to China where the dying king king (Shi Liang) declares that his teenage son shall take his place on the throne. Unfortunately for the young heir, his older brother Shing (Andy On), himself a warrior type, had his eye on the throne and isn't particularly thrilled that his younger sibling was chosen over him. He solves this problem by sending his ailing father to an early grave and making it out to look like his sibling was the one responsible for the murder.
Now wrongfully accused of killing his father, the heir and his sister Lian (Liu Yifei) flee their home with various parties heading after them. The two are alone and stand no chance against such insurmountable odds until Lian meets Jacob, now an opium addict since getting out of The Crusades. Though he has his problems, he's still deadly with a sword and once he and Lian start falling for one another, it's only a matter of time before he joins them. After Jacob helps teach his new pal some combat skills, the three of them wind up teaming up with the man known only to the locals as ‘The White Ghost' in hopes of setting things right and getting the rightful heir back on the throne before Shing causes even more turmoil for everyone.
Anyone care to guess who ‘The White Ghost' might be?
This is a fairly standard by the numbers action film in which some reluctant anti-hero types try to find redemption for their past sins by helping out someone wronged and in need of their specific skills and there isn't really a whole lot of creativity here in terms of storytelling. It's passable enough and violent enough to hold our attention but fairly forgettable once it's all over and done with. Of course, the fact that Hayden Christensen is cast as the male lead here doesn't help things. He looks fine in the part, if not particularly hardened or world weary as his character is supposed to be, but doesn't seem to be interested in giving his character much in the way of a personality. How much of this is the script's fault compared to how much of this is his lackluster screen presence is probably debatable but it's a problem for the movie. His character, the one that so much of the story is centered around, is kind of boring.
That leaves Nicolas Cage to pick up the slack, right? Well, sort of. He's fun to watch here, playing his character with some of his trademark over the top style and using an accent of questionable origins to make his wild haired Gallain at least amusing to watch. He's got screen presence in spades and he has no trouble throwing his weight around. When Cage is ‘into it' here, the movie is at least a fun watch. But Cage is underused. Most of the screen time is taken up by Christensen alongside Liu Yifei. She's fine, but again, not all that memorable in her respective part either. Andy On makes for a reasonable amusing villain so he earns some points for that but really, you're going to pay more attention when Cage is on screen than when any of the other participants are doing their thing.
The action scenes are well choreographed if pretty choppy and hyperkinetic in terms of editing. Lots of ‘cut cut cut' during the swordplay, but the action is frequent enough to keep the movie going at a good pace. The movie also scores full marks for its production values. Shot on location in China it makes great use of some interesting landscapes and features plenty of colorful costumes throughout. The score is decent enough too. It's a shame that Cage wasn't given more screen time to really cut loose here, and it's a shame that the story isn't more interesting or original but this is worth seeing, if only once, for Cage fans. It isn't one for the record books but it's passably entertaining.The Blu-ray:
Outcast arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition and while the movie is, stylistically speaking, sometimes strange looking the transfer does it justice. Color tweaks are apparent throughout the feature some you kind of need to keep that in mind going into it, once you get used to it, you get the impression that the disc offers up the movie as it should look. Black levels are typically pretty strong and there aren't any obvious compression issues or noise reduction problems to complain about. Detail is pretty solid throughout and as this was shot digitally obviously there are no problems with any sort of print damage to complain about.Sound:
The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track on the disc is a fairly good one. There's decent directional effects used throughout the movie, the action sequences being the most obvious instances but you'll pick up on some ambient and background effects present throughout in the quieter scenes as well. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand and the score sounds good. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are nicely balanced. An English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is also included and there are optional English subtitles provided as well.Extras:
The main extra feature on the disc is a collection of three interviews totaling fifty-three minutes in length. Appearing on camera to talk about their work on this movie are Cage, Christensen and director Nick Powell. Cage's interview is the weirdest and therefore the most interesting of the three as he talks about the energy in the film and his motivations for taking the role. The strange thing is that throughout this interview collection the questions are cut out so we really just sort of wind up with Cage talking about… stuff. But it's fun to watch. Powell is more direct and to the point, as he discusses the influence of martial arts films on his picture and shares some experiences from the shoot while Christensen talks about growing a beard and how he feels about the movie as a whole.
Aside from that we get a ten minute featurette called The Making Of Outcast that plays more like a promotional piece than anything else. Some cast and crew interviews shed a bit of light on the plot and storyline but not much on the actual making of the movie. Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other eOne releases, animated menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Outcast is, as stated, passably entertaining. It isn't a modern masterpiece of action cinema nor is it a new ‘Crazy Cage' classic but he's fun when he's onscreen even if Christensen is dry. The movie looks and sounds good and contains a few supplements, the interviews being the most interesting. Rent it.