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Outcast Blu-ray Review

Outcast (2015) Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Outcast
Movie & Blu-ray Disc Details

Director: Nicholas Powell / Writer: James Dormer

Cast: Hayden Christensen (Jacob), Nicolas Cage (Gallain), Liu Yifei (Lian), Andy On (Shing), Bill Su Jiahang (Zhao), Coco Wang (Xiaoli), Anoja Dias Bolt (Anika), Jike Junyi (Mei)

Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

2.40:1 Widescreen / 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: March 31, 2015 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

Buy Outcast from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD Instant Video

Just how low can Nicolas Cage go?

Nineteen years since his Academy Award win for Leaving Las Vegas, twelve since his last nomination for Adaptation, and seven and a half since his last definitive commercial hit (National Treasure: Book of Secrets), Cage has hit hard times. The 51-year-old, who has been acting for well over half his life, seemed to have hit rock bottom
last fall in Left Behind, disastrously reviewed box office poison that appeared to make him the first movie star to make a Rapture movie purely for the paycheck. At least that apocalypse thriller was released to nearly 2,000 theaters. More often, recent Cage movies have been settling for triple-digit theater counts.

Outcast, Cage's latest film, may not even have secured a double-digit theatrical release. It is one of those movies where multiple websites indicate it got limited exhibition, but you still have your doubts. With no box office record to its name, you have to wonder if any theater intended to turn a profit would really agree to run an unrated sword and shield picture starring Cage and Hayden Christensen of Star Wars prequel fame in 2015. Heck, even a theater engaged in some kind of The Producers-type insurance scam might hesitate to have their plan hinge on such an obviously unattractive project. You could search the ends of the earth your entire life and still not encounter someone who would admit to buying a ticket for this film.

But, you know, I'm not one to turn down reviewing a Nic Cage movie. He's made around 70 movies and I've seen the majority of them. Cage's presence and steadfast belief in different hairstyles and accents has redeemed a number of them. He's made some genuinely good movies (e.g. Matchstick Men, The Weather Man, Raising Arizona, Bringing Out the Dead) and some movies too outrageous to ever forget (including Vampire's Kiss, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, The Wicker Man, and the two Ghost Rider films). The worst Nic Cage movies are the unremarkable ones you've got no desire to either revisit or even think about. Very few of them earn that designation from me; only Gone in 60 Seconds, World Trade Center, and Next spring to mind.

While I had little hope that Outcast would be one of the good ones, I hoped it would be outlandish enough to entertain and remember. Cage's last endeavor set in the Middle Ages, the bromantic Season of the Witch, somehow hadn't been Cagey enough to truly take to heart. Perhaps this one from British speechwriter turned TV scribe James Dormer ("Strike Back", next year's "Beowulf" miniseries) and longtime stunt coordinator, first-time director Nick Powell would be the only kind of extraordinary Cage seems capable of these days outside of Internet memes.

As usual, Nicolas Cage is a tad askew in "Outcast." He plays the alcoholic, Crusades-scarred White Ghost Gallain.

Outcast opens during the Crusades with a prologue that sees Gallain (Cage) and Jacob (Christensen) fighting together and killing in the name of God. We then jump ahead three years and relocate to the Far East, where an aging, dying king (Shi Liang) appoints his youngest child, 14-year-old son Zhao (Bill Su Jiahang) to succeed him. As expected, Zhao's older brother Shing (Andy On), a warrior deemed unsuitable for this time of peace, is not pleased by the succession plan. He decides to usurp the throne, killing his father and pinning the murder on Zhao.

With the Black Guards after them in search of the royal seal, Zhao and his older sister Lian (Liu Yifei) take off. Their search for protection proves futile, until Jacob, dulled by an opium addiction but still deadly, joins the effort. He and Lian, an obvious love interest, talk about the divide in class and gender. Zhao asks Jacob to teach him how to shoot arrows like him, a skill he calmly demonstrates while saving a young girl's life.

Though betrayed by a Middle Eastern woman (Anoja Dias Bolt) who had shown them hospitality, this party of three four eventually gets acquainted with the fabled "White Ghost." It's Gallain, Jacob's fellow crusader, mentor, and father figure since youth. Reluctantly, Gallain and his wife (Jike Junyi), who is mute as the result of guards cutting out her tongue, join Jacob and these young royals in a battle against Shing and his formidable forces.

A guilt-ridden warrior (Hayden Christensen) protects a princess (Liu Yifei) and prince (Bill Su Jiahang) on the run in the American-Chinese-Canadian action film "Outcast."

Outcast was shot in China with an international cast. It marks the distribution debut of Yunnan Film Group, a Chinese production company behind two prior movies, the more notable of which was Dragon,
distributed by Radius-TWC stateside. One assumes Outcast is of greater interest to the Chinese film market than the American one, if only because Cage's stock is at an all-time low domestically and he actually has a supporting and fairly secondary role here.

Cage acts as if he's performing this movie in character as a classically trained English stage actor. Maybe he's just trying to channel Keith Richards. Adopting a priceless voice, Cage amuses with his sledgehammer subtlety in his few scenes as a shaggy, scarred alcoholic.

On the other hand, Christensen, arguably the single worst thing about the second and third Star Wars prequels, remains a terribly unlikable performer. Improbably but deservingly first-billed, he uses something resembling a mild Irish brogue. Though he is spared any heavy lifting dramatically, he makes for an unconvincing guilt-ridden swordsman.

If submitted to the MPAA, Outcast probably would have earned a mild R rating. There's minimal profanity, no sex, and though plenty of violence, not an excess of blood or graphic carnage. You can guess Powell's background by simply noticing how elaborate action and fight choreography stands out as the production's greatest priority. Though competently staged, such scenes discomfort based on their choppy visuals. Is this a Blu-ray transfer issue or a stylistic choice? I'm not sure, but it's disorienting, looking like it's presented in a low frame rate or improper speed. Only the action scenes, which are already plagued by hyper editing, exhibit this feature, so perhaps it is a product of using Chinese digital video cameras.

Anyway, Outcast, whose title never makes sense (was it supposed to be "Outlaw", a word that at least arises in heated conversation?), supposedly opened in Malaysian and Singaporean theaters last fall. In mid-January, it opened in China. The alleged US and Canadian limited release occurred in early February. And this week, Outcast hit North American DVD and Blu-ray from Entertainment One.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Because they were a big enough distraction, I've already addressed the issue of Outcast's unsightly action visuals above. Like I said, I'm not sure if the issue lies with the transfer to home video or in the original filming. I assume it's the latter, but I've only encountered one prior eOne Blu-ray (the aforementioned Left Behind, which looked fine), so I can't speak to their track record. Apart from that, the 2.40:1 presentation is sharp and clean, exhibiting nothing worse than some faint digital video grain on occasion.

For some reason, the default soundtrack is plain Dolby Digital 5.1, so if you've got a home theater, you'll likely want to switch to the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD master audio option. Steady and moderately immersive, it is fine. The optional English SDH subtitles are very clean and easy to read.

Hayden Christensen talks to the behind-the-scenes camera in "Making of 'Outcast.'" You can bet some memorable things are said in this 11-minute interview of Nicolas Cage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Outcast is joined by three types of bonus features on eOne's Blu-ray, all of which are kindly presented in HD.

First is Outcast's trailer (1:42),

which I doubt we can call theatrical at least in North America.

Next, "Making of Outcast" (9:47) offers talking heads and behind-the-scenes footage. It includes a lot of plot description and a little talk of action.

Finally, there are three extended interviews (53:23), which give us much, much more from three sessions sampled in the previous featurette: Nicolas Cage, director Nick Powell, and Hayden Christensen. If you have Nic Cage speaking for eleven minutes without a script (and with the questions oddly edited out), you're bound to get some gold and this extended clip is an embarrassment of riches. Highlights include: Cage introducing himself ("I'm an American filmmaker"), describing why he likes this movie ("I like seeing people from different cultures co-existing in a harmonious way...that's just good energy") and how it reminded him of Endless Summer, explaining how he knew Christensen's work in the films of his dear family friend George Lucas, and his abrupt end to the session. Powell is refreshingly forthright in his assessment of kung fu movies and Chinese cinema at large, and he does little to hide his frustration with certain aspects of production. Christensen's most telling reveal is that his talk of preparation is primarily about growing out his facial hair.

The Blu-ray opens with seven minutes of unpromising trailers for Black November, Death Squad, After the Fall, and Catch Hell. None of these are accessible by menu.

That menu divides the 16:9 screen between standard clips and a listings bar adapted from the cover art that changes based upon your selections. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback of the film and extras, but does not support bookmarks or quickly return you to the menu.

No inserts or slipcover accompany the full-color disc in the plain blue keepcase, which means no digital copy is included with your purchase.

Even dulled by opium, guilty crusader Jacob (Hayden Christensen) can put up a good fight.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

At the rate he's going, without some kind of Tarantino-style revival, Nicolas Cage seems mere months away from embracing direct-to-video schlock as his new calling. His latest movie, Outcast, does make some worthy contributions to the inevitable next Nic Cage montage ("Black Guards are as thick as flies on a farting goat's ass."). His absurd scenes are the most entertaining moments of the film, which otherwise serves up a fairly unremarkable sword and shield tale with the uncharismatic Hayden Christensen at the center.

eOne's Blu-ray wields over an hour of bonus features, but it's not a disc you'll appreciate unless your tastes skew to Middle Ages action.

Buy Outcast from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
Nicolas Cage: Season of the Witch Left Behind Stolen Seeking Justice Drive Angry Knowing Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Hayden Christensen: Jumper New York, I Love You
Dragon Hero Snowpiercer The Grandmaster Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Mulan
New: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 88 Interstellar The Red Road: The Complete First Season

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Reviewed April 2, 2015.



Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Entertainment One, Yunnan Film Group, Telefilm Canada, Mediabiz Capital, Seville Pictures,
Arclight Films International, Notorious Films, and Glacier Films. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.