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Movie Review: Outcast (2014) Hayden Christensen, Nicholas Cage

Outcast 2014 movie still nicholas cage hayden christensen

Typical Western war-weary characters in generic ancient Chinese dynasty action drama... fully in English, with Instagram filter

Stars Hayden Christensen, Nicholas Cage and Crystal Liu Yifei


Regret for the things they've done in a holy war, Crusaders Jacob (Hayden Christensen) and Gallain (Nicholas Cage) part ways and head to the East, where Jacob becomes an opium addict due to haunted memories. He comes across a 14-year-old "goodhearted" Chinese prince, Zhao (Bill Su Jiahang) and his sister, Princess Lian (Crystal Liu Yifei), who are being hunted down by their evil brother Shing (Andy On) who murdered their king father and is desperate to claim his place on the throne from Zhao. Tempted by some gold and hoping to redeem himself, he decides to help and protect the royal siblings to the their destination.

So, evil villain wants to assassinate sibling in order to become king, prince/princess gets help from an unlikely hero, princess falls for the white dude after seeing him topless for a while, the villain could've easily won in the end but opts to fight one-on-one with the protagonist and gets kills instead... oops, spoilers? Well, forgive me if you haven't already seen the same overused plot for more than 20 years. It doesn't get any more predictably cliched than this, seriously. The only thing that's sort of new but not necessary acceptable is that the Caucasians here have better Kung Fu than the Chinese characters in ancient times and the young Chinese prince has to learn how to shoot an arrow from an white dude (Jacob) who's so cool and good in fighting even when, or because of being, high on opium. Drug and alcohol promotion alert!

Conveniences in such genres should be expected but it's hard to not notice or ignore when it's to this ridiculous extend. For example; protagonists lead the march of their army in a narrow path but it's the soldiers behind that get shot when arrows are fired from the front? Princess walks into a random bar and everyone knows who she is, but nobody recognises them when they walk into a village filled with Shing's soldiers hunting for them? In this village, the group later gets betrayed, Jacob gets drugged but not killed immediately, and yet none of Shing's soldier's are around to capture the Zhao and Lian before Jacob wakes up? Might as well throw in a forced sex scene between Lian and Jacob too, I'm sure the male audience would appreciate that more than anything else this film has to offer. Even the action sequences are filmed with overly shaky cinematography so what's there to be seen? Beautiful scenery with dark Instagram-like filters?

Not to mention about the language - both the Western and Eastern characters speak fluent English. Let's put the logic aside since even English-speaking aliens and gods in Marvel films were somehow forgivable to viewers. The problem is hearing the typical cheesy Chinese ancient drama dialogues in English! It makes it sound even more stupid than it already is. However, the editing has done a pretty decent job reducing the cheesiness by not prolonging sequences with such dialogues. With that being said, the film is pretty fast-paced, so fast that there's practically zero character development. The master and apprentice relationship between Jacob and Gallain is not emotionally engaging, the romance between characters is forced, and the justification on why the 14-year-old Zhao could become a great king is nonexistent. I mean, who's to say the kid won't grow up and become more cruel than his brother? Hey, at least Shing won countless wars for the kingdom. What has this little boy done to prove himself worthy?

Andy On, Nicholas Cage and Crystal Liu Yifei in Outcast 2014 movie still meme

The only positives for the film are the beautiful scenery, and Christensen and Cage's enjoyable performance. Outcast attempts to be a West meets East dark epic, and could've probably been one if it had a more experienced director, action choreographer and writer, but unfortunately it turned out to be just an unimpressive simplified action romance drama with a potential to flop. Maybe the investors in China foresee that as well; the release of this film in China was postponed just 2 hours before the midnight premiere. Although this was a US-China-Canada production, the film has only been released here in Malaysia thus far, and will only be released in the US next year. Guess there's disasters in and out of the movie itself. I believe too much of the production budget was allocated to hiring these superstar actors, leaving very little left for everything else, hence the first-time director (Nick Powell), unknown writer (James Dormer) and so-so action. And this happens when the intention is just to make easy money from general audience.

What I would've named the film: "The White Guy & the Asian Chick Stereotype"

Censorship in Malaysia: There were quite a number of awkward skips, I'd assume those were some violent sequences that our beloved local censorship board deemed too extreme. Or maybe it was religious, 'cause the characters were involved in a holy war. But strangely, the vulgarities were sort of kept.

To watch in 3D? Well it wasn't released here in 3D and I don't see why anyone should watch this in that format.

Second opinion: My girlfriend thought it was very funny. As in, the movie's so bad that it was funny kind of funny.

Verdict: I was expecting the film to be so bad that I would enjoy laughing at it, but sadly, it's not horrible to that extend.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

Outcast 2014 movie poster malaysiaChinese Title: 绝命逃亡
Country: America-China-Canada
Language: English

Genre: Action
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Nick Powell
Screenwriter: James Dormer
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Nicholas Cage, Crystal Liu Yifei, Andy On

Malaysia Release Date: 26 September 2014
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: Ram Entertainment
Production: Actra Montreal



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