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I’m gonna be totally honest: when I found out about this movie, I got excited. Two crusaders in the 12th century ending up in China, kicking all kinds of butt: that sounded like my kind of movie. Next to that, I surprise to see Hayden Christensen (of course known for playing Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars Prequels) back on the screen. Especially in this kind of setting. And Nicolas Cage looked pretty bad-ass in the stills I came across. Then I found out that Andy On (Once upon a time in Shanghai) was in the mix as well as the bad guy! Wow, this might actually turn out to be something pretty cool.
Well, unfortunately no, not really. We all know that Nicolas Cage has been having some financial problems the last couple of years, which results in him basically saying yes to any project and making film after film at a rapid pace. He has proven to be a good actor in the past (and in the present as well, have a look at the recent Joe), but sadly Outcast (Tuyet Menh Dao Vong) is a film in which he clearly didn’t put his heart and soul. He isn’t even in the movie that long since the film revolves around Hayden Christensen’s character. And the time Cage is on the screen he just gives the impression he doesn’t really wanna be there.
Christensen portrays the man this film is about, and also his acting isn’t what you would call good. He is known, and quite disliked, for his wooden acting, and this film also doesn’t change that reputation. Both he and Cage try to pull off some kind of noble British accent, but both fail at it. Then there is the Chinese cast, who all speak in English in stead of their mother tongue.
For a second I was fearing what had happened with 47 Ronin. But the Chinese cast members have no problem with acting in English (even though it would have made more sense story-wise to just let them speak Chinese with each other) and give a more satisfying performance than the two lead actors. The beautiful Yifei Liu (Luu Diec Phi) plays the love interest. And Andy On is there as the menacing bad guy. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get that much to do and he also doesn’t really get the chance to show off his awesome martial arts skills.
The premise of the story is pretty cool. I mean, two crusaders deciding to travel further east and ending up in 12th century China! It got me excited, even though historians question if something like this really could have happened. But it sounds plausible to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few crusaders who decided to travel further east and ended up in China. Anyway, the Nicolas Cage character all of sudden decides, in the midst of battle. He has had enough, and wants to quit murdering in the name of God. Christensen’s character is drive by the cause and doesn’t want to stop, but turns around eventually. It is all brought a bit clumsy in the film’s first moments. And this clumsiness is something that rules throughout the rest of the film.
Action-wise the film has plenty of action scenes, but the editing is kind of all over the place, making the action less effective, which is a shame. Visually the film is beautiful though. The locations are lush, the sets colourful and on some occasions even stunning. Filmed on location in China, the visual aspect of the film is definitely its strong point. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make up for the many flaws the film carries. It certainly has its enjoyable moments. But overall Outcast is a motion picture that ultimately fails to deliver on many fronts.