Friday, 18 December 2015

Outcast (2014) - Movie Review
After you spend long enough time on film sets, the thought of becoming a director yourself seems like the next logical step. Actors, writers, cinematographers; people originally from these fields have taken up the big chair with varying success. However, especially in recent years, we’ve started seeing a new group join those ranks: Stunt choreographers. And I’m not talking about co-directing films like The Transporter because their role is so crucial to the overall production; I mean going it alone. We’ve had Scott Waugh direct and edit that stupid Need For Speed movie, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch gave us the surprisingly awesome John Wick and Vic Armstrong brought the Left Behind remake upon us. Well, time for a stuntman-cum-director and Nicolas Cage to team up once again as we look at today’s subject.

The plot: Three years after leading armies during the Crusades, Jacob (Hayden Christensen) has become an opium-addicted drifter in China. When royal heir Mei (Ji Ke Jun Yi) and his sister Lian (Liu Yifei) become fugitives after their father is murdered by their brother Shing (Andy On), they enlist Jacob as a bodyguard to help them escape his armies. With his past haunting him, the words of his mentor Gallain (Nicolas Cage) ringing in his head and only his sword at his back, he must overcome old sins and become the knight he once was.

Christensen hasn’t got a drop of charisma in his anachronistic mohawk. It takes poise to be able to pull off the blunted bar brawling that Jacob is given here, but Christensen is no Jeff Bridges. He also sucks at pulling off what I can only assume is a British accent. On isn’t capable of making the obvious villain he’s given work, which is kind of surprising considering what mode Cage is in for this film. This is the Nicolas Cage that we should have gotten in Left Behind. He really isn’t capable of doing a convincing accent either, but he also isn’t capable of holding anything back as he gives his all in every scene he has… which unfortunately isn’t that often. After a rather out-of-place introductory scene set during the Crusades, he is absent from the film for nearly an hour until he crops up as a poorly concealed plot twist. Granted, he immediately makes the film better with his mere on-screen presence, but by that point, it is well and truly too late to save anything.

The plot is thinner than a meth addict, and whatever meat the story does have is either stupidly implemented or just plain stupid. The entire reason why the plot exists is because the emperor didn’t realize that generals are more than capable of taking over their leaders through how much the army trusts them. Especially when he’s facing a 14-year-old boy! I mean, the obviously evil general is alone in the same room as the emperor, the emperor dies, and his army somehow buys that someone else killed him? You know a film’s plot is bad when I actually summarize it in one of these reviews. From there, it’s running away from Shing and his forces like if Monty Python And The Holy Grail was supposed to be dramatic, until they catch up and Shing gets taken down with insulting ease. They make some attempt to show Jacob’s redemption for the lives he took during the Crusades, except it hits with the impact of a sword being held by an impossibly shaky hand. It also doesn’t help that Jacob gets over his opium addiction in no time at all, showing only mild withdrawal symptoms

Which brings us nicely into the action scenes, and my God is this amateur hour-and-30-minutes. The cinematography is nauseating like a head-on collision between bad found footage and bad straight-to-DVD action. Not since Alex Cross have I seen camera work this horrible that’s meant to excite us with bloodshed. The editing is obnoxious, featuring probably the most cuts I’ve seen outside of a Darren Aronofsky and Yoshihiro Nishimura marathon. Not even for montages or anything, just showing people fight with swords. Sure would be nice if I could make it out, but it’s barely legible. Actually, scratch that, it wouldn’t be nice because the few parts that can be seen without feeling the urge to throw up, the fight choreography is very telegraphed. Even considering Christensen’s talent for extremely dance-like fight scenes like in the Star Wars prequels, this is simply not excusable.

What makes this even worse is the fact that it is all directed by someone with definite stunt experience, as Nick Powell has worked on Batman and the friggin’ Bourne Identity. You’d think, after all that, he’d know how to shoot shaky-cam fight scenes. Instead, we get the coordinator who did the stunts for the Twilight Saga. It’s sad when Breaking Dawn Part 2’s completely imagined fight scene was still better than whatever this could conjure up.

All in all, I finally got my wish for a glorious Nic Cage performance. Such a shame that it would come packaged with a film with otherwise hopeless acting, a rail-thin script and horrifically bad action scenes that make Rob Cohen look like John McTiernan by comparison. I can’t even recommend it for so-bad-it’s-good reasons because not only is Cage not in nearly enough of the film to make it worth seeing, but the rest of it is so poorly shot that you’re likely to suffer a colossal migraine before even getting to it.

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