When the heir of the Imperial throne becomes the target of an assassination, the young prince must flee the kingdom and seek protection. His only hope for survival is a reluctant war-weary crusader named Jacob (Hayden Christensen), who must overcome his own personal demons and rally the assistance of a mythical outlaw known as The White Ghost (Nicolas Cage). Together they must fight side by side in an epic battle to return the prince to his rightful place on the throne.
This film is so badly written and directed that the actors stand no chance. Let’s hope we’re laughing with them rather than at them. In any case, who ever thought that Hayden Christensen would convince as a Crusader knight? Not that he’s the worst of the film’s problems. It’s obvious we’re in trouble from the very beginning. The pre-title battle sequence is filmed as an over-edited mess of blink-and-you-miss-them shaky-cam shots. This is always a sign of a director who has no idea how to compose and marshal comprehensible action. Step forward stuntman and first-time director Nick Powell, following in the footsteps of equal offender Paul Greengrass. Watchable only as a masterclass on how not to make an action film.
Outcast is another one of those thinly written action period pieces built specifically to keep D-list actors partially in the spotlight. Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen exist in this film at the height of their career mediocrity. As Cage prances around in another ridiculous voice and hairdo, Christensen remains a force of stiffness with his lifeless acting. These two are a long, long, long ways away from what acting potential they may have had.
Stuntman-turned-director Nick Powell stages a cheap vision of the Crusades that transitions to somewhere in the Middle East. Hayden Christensen plays Jacob, a retired Crusader who wanders around 12th century Asia as a walk-the-land warrior. Just when he thinks he’s out of the business, he’s pulled right back in when tasked with saving a rightful heir to the throne of a feuding kingdom. Angry soldiers march after a brother and sister fleeing from their jealous other brother who wants to be the evil ruler of the land. Now Jacob has something to do and a reason to team up once again with his old war buddy Gallain (Nicolas Cage).
With such a light plot, Outcast is little more than a chase running from fight scene A to fight scene B. Hardly any of them are memorable and end up being laughably cliche at times. An enemy soldier attempts to flee, but the feckless Asian kids can’t land an arrow on him. The stoic Christensen need only take little aim so that his arrow is able to fly such massive distance to take out the enemy. I used to think that bit was only used in movies now as a satire of capping fight scenes. Apparently Nick Powell wants to bring it back as still being legitimately impressive and not just a tired bit of action pictures.
For the majority of the film, Christensen plays up the same character he’s always been for his entire career. He was most likely trying to convey the clouded mind of a veteran crusader who has seen so much, but he comes off more bored than lost in thought. With plenty of opportunities to display some fury in his fighting or some weakness in his psyche, you have to wonder why his performance is so dead on arrival. Either the director didn’t do his job or Christensen has just given up on his.
As for Nicolas Cage, it’s another strange performance for his reel of strange roles. Either Cage just goes with whatever hair style he jumps out of bed with that morning or he deliberately wants to look like a mess for every role. To go with that perplexing coif is one of the silliest accents he’s ever performed. Cage works best as the wiry, nervous man on the brink of a breakdown. He’s completely out of place as a grizzled soldier and swindler, barking at his enemies and swinging swords like a madman. Also worth noting is his character’s over-acted death in which it takes a massive number of stabbings from pikes to make him fall to the ground in agony. His bee death from The Wicker Man may have some competition.
Outcast is a samurai film served flat with a Nicholas Cage chaser. The plot is a snooze of a scenario plucked without irony from the barrel of action movie cliches. The action scenes are decently staged, but lacking any thrill in the way they were shot. Sure enough, there is a moment where Jacob has to have a battle with the main bad guy, but only in a one-on-one match where the rest of the enemy soldiers stand around and do nothing. If Jacob wins, the soldiers will do nothing but accept the defeat of their master. It’s the exact same way I felt throughout this entire film. I just sat there, passively watching nothing all that engaging on the screen, waiting for it to end. The movie eventually ended and I did nothing. I didn’t clap in approval or sigh in dismay. I just sat there with a sense of emptiness after watching 98 minutes of just that.