Tuesday, January 24, 2017

And For Good Reasons - Outcast Review

If you saw the trailers for 2014’s Outcast, you can be excused for thinking it would be a train-wreck. Nicholas Cage and Hayden Christensen as AWOL crusaders who’ve travelled to China (or, at least, a Hollywood version of China) and get involved in dynastic politics? Yeah. But, the important question is, would it be a glorious train-wreck?

The answer is: meh, not so much. Nick Cage prancing about with a prosthetic ruined eye and snakes wrapped around his wrists isn’t as much fun as you’d think, mostly because he defaults to doing an odd impersonation of Long John Silver for most of the last third of the movie. Christensen actually comes off quite well, though you’d be excused for thinking he was a poor-man’s Karl Urban with that haircut and delivery. But this is lightyears better than much of his work in Star Wars.

This one avoids most of the pitfalls of the White Savior trope. Yeah, the ex-crusaders are excellent warriors, but not supermen, and you don’t get the feeling that there’s something special about them, that either is a chosen-one type. But you absolutely get the sense that someone wanted to do a Chinese historical epic but was afraid that if the main characters were not white that American (or maybe Chinese) audiences wouldn’t show up. This isn’t the only box-checking this movie suffers from. We’re also treated to the reluctant warrior trope; all three of the bad-asses in this film have been deeply scarred, even ruined as people, by the wars they’ve fought. There’s no such thing as a noble warrior or even a noble cause. There’s only brutality and guilt, but hey, look at these fun action sequences we’ve put together for your enjoyment! Yeah, classic example of Hollywood hypocrisy in action.

And that, in the end, leaves us with a luke-warm film. It’s got some neat costumes, but nothing on the level of Curse of the Golden Flower or Game of Thrones. It’s got some ok fights (the final mano-y-mano clash is actually pretty good, except that it happens for no reason other than that’s how things are done in movies). It’s totally lacking in a classic Nick Cage freak-out, though. He swerves close, then backs away. Just like this whole movie does, in its depiction of cultural interactions, violence, and emotion.

This one is probably not worth your time unless you’re a Cage completest, and even then you’ll likely only watch it once.


lige said...

Speaking of random medievalish movies have you seen Last Knights with Clive Owen? It's like a Samurai movie but with a totally multiethnic cast and has a few good scenes. Basically Owen is the same guy from King Arthur and there is a solid cameo from Morgan Freemen.

JB said...

I stopped being a Cage "completist" a while ago...certainly after Ghost Rider, if not Con Air. Or his turn as a villain with some weird fascination/complex for House of Pain (I don't remember the film title). Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

However, I'm actually curious to see Hayden doing Karl Urban.
; )

trollsmyth said...

lige: I've seen that one popping up in NetFlix. I'll check it out.

JB: his role in this doesn't have much range and he starts the movie playing the student in conflict with his mentor. They also hedged their bets by having him stoned for much of the movie when he's not fighting someone. But yeah, he's ok in this. I'd even say good, if you give allowances for the material he's working with. Nothing like the flat, wooden thing he is in Star Wars. And he's got that stiff-spined-but-arms-loose-head-lowered-growling thing that Urban does.

If you can see it for free, might be worth checking out for that, though you'll likely just want to fast-forward to the Christensen bits.