Veteran stunt coordinator and frequent second unit director Nicholas Powell makes his feature helming debut with "Outcast," a visually arresting, smartly paced, well-edited but otherwise unremarkable medieval-era action picture.
Based on a screenplay by James Dormer, who reportedly wrote the script about 15 years ago, the film may be best remembered for costar Nicolas Cage's warrior coif, perhaps his most unflattering movie hairdo yet — and that's saying a lot. (Add demon makeup, and Cage could pinch-hit for Gene Simmons at a KISS concert.)
Set during the Crusades, the film begins in the Middle East, where British knight Jacob (Hayden Christensen, with his own fierce haircut) is urged by his mentor, Gallain (Cage), to flee the horrors of war and head to the Far East.
Haunted and weary, Jacob reluctantly complies only to be drawn into another dangerous mission: to protect Zhao (Bill Su Jiahang), a 14-year-old Chinese prince and imperial heir, and his older sister, Lian (Liu Yifei), from their power-mad, patricidal older brother, Shing (Andy On), and his battling henchmen.
En route to the inevitable showdown with the lethal Shing, Jacob plays older brother/young father figure to Zhao, canoodles with Lian, tries to kick opium, engages in some nifty swordplay and, natch, finds redemption. Jacob also gets some late-breaking fight assistance from Gallain, now a mythical one-eyed outlaw known as "The White Ghost." (Of course he is.)
Christensen manages his fairly dimensional antihero role with physical and emotional aplomb, but onetime A-lister Cage looks and sounds too silly to take seriously. Worry not, fans of Cage's over-the-top stylings: Scenery is reliably chewed.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.