Trash or Treasure: Volume 16/Nic Cage Month #3 – Outcast
Oh hello, didn’t see you there. Welcome to Trash or Treasure in the midst of our Nic Cage Month special where my friend Ally and I watched the non-American release, Outcast. Starring everyone’s favorite Anakin Skywalker, Hayden Christensen, the film tells the story of two crusaders who find themselves thrown into a brotherly feud in an unnamed kingdom (China). Easily found on the Netflix, the only thing I know about the film before it starts is the picture of the cover that shows Nic Cage with an extreme amount of head hair. It’s not the most attractive cover, and yet we push onwards.
The film opens with a downright brutal scene of crusader Hayden Christensen and crusader Nic Cage assaulting an Arabic fortress. This scene is brutal not because of the obscene amount of gore (the film is NR after all), but because there are hundreds upon hundreds of jump cuts. It’s a downright dizzying experience to try and follow the action that opens this film up. We see Nic and Hayden disagree about their morals and it appears that Hayden has murdered non- crusader women and non-crusader children. Luckily during this entire serious sequence we’re introduced to the horrid British accents that Hayden and Nic have decided to give themselves for the entire movie. It honestly would’ve been less distracting if they had continued with their American accents.
But not THE most distracting thing…
Some more jump cuts, obscene gore, and Nic Cage saying “go east” later, we’ve ended up three years later and are now in the nondescript Far East (China). The dying ruler goes with the classic “the older brother is a warrior but this nondescript kingdom (China) needs a peaceful leader so I choose the younger brother (not China)” choice for his line of succession, which leads to the younger brother and sister having to escape with the sacred scroll while the brother takes over and literally changes the color of everything in the imperial palace to black.
There is no subtlety in this film.
The younger brother, Zhao, and princess Lian (pronounced LeAnne) make their way undisguised to a bar where crusader Hayden is opium-ing his life away despite another character announcing that crusader Hayden has no money. Something you’ll learn as you progress through this film is that non-crusader continuity was another thing this film decided it wasn’t super into. Crusader Hayden saves Zhao and Lian from the Black Guards (again, subtlety) and we learn that non-crusader Lian is a Trash or Treasure favorite trope: future love interest (not China). Crusader Hayden pretends he doesn’t care, takes some opium, and has some flashbacks to the horrific and morally ambiguous scene in the castle, and then ends up back with them.
Something, something, moral compass.
They adventure along, trying to make their way to some city (in China) for a reason they never explain, even saving a young peasant girl along the way. This girl is also future love interest (for Zhao) but they never give her a backstory, or even a forestory, as she just exists with barely any dialogue. We also get a nice sequence where Lian decides the best way to help their cause is to get rid of crusader Hayden’s opium because surely his withdrawl symptoms will have no ill effect on their journey. Zhao also asks opium-less, but still crusader Hayden to teach him to shoot a bow, because I’m sure at some point later in the film he will need to make one good shot to kill someone important.
“Wait…what’s subtlety?” – The Director, probably.
They sneak into the aforementioned city with help from a maybe prostitute and a scene that shows morally redeemed Hayden giving up his reward money so they can enter the city. The prostitute then attempts to poison Hayden in order to turn in Zhao and Lian for a reward. Luckily, the poison is only knockout poison, and Hayden saves the day by helping Lian, Zhao, and peasant girl escape, and punching that prostitute in the face. There’s an escape sequence and some jump cut fighting and holy shit we’re two thirds of the way through this movie, where is Nic Cage?
Seriously, after the first scene in the movie, he disappears.
Oh hey, there he is. Nic Cage finally returns to the film in all his shit-accented glory as the famed “White Ghost” that people had been raving about throughout the film. White Ghost Nic Cage, his Asian wife, and their strange band of thieves save Hayden and help out Lian and Zhao. Nic and Hayden reconcile their differences as we learn that the horrifying scene from the beginning was actually Hayden coming across the women and children all committing suicide. Ally and I realized that this was laid out in a much, much earlier scene, but the bad accents covered up our ability to gain this important information.
Or maybe that was the movie’s plan all along.
Somehow the Black Guards led by the elder brother make their way to Nic Cage’s bandit camp and they set up an epic final battle sequence. Or at least it would be if it were any other movie. Many jump cuts later, Nic Cage’s Asian wife is dead and Nic Cage himself screams his way into death at the hands of the Black Guards. Hayden, Zhao, Lian, and peasant girl emerge from the hideout to fight the elder brother since there are no other options.
Except the escape plan mentioned five minutes earlier.
Continuity, am I right?
There’s a bizarre set of actions during Hayden and elder brother’s final battle and Lian gets stabbed, Hayden gets stabbed, and the elder brother gets ultra-stabbed. Luckily, the Black Guards then decide to support the other brother and all is well in the kingdom. Hayden and Lian even recover from their stab wounds to see the end of the movie. In a complete turn around, Hayden decides to leave for more adventures, abandoning Lian and breaking her heart. I guess despite their kissing earlier in the movie, she was not future love interest.
And that’s the biggest let down of all.
Outcast is a film that feels awfully short. At one hour and 38 minutes it’s not much shorter than Next, but it feels like not a lot happened. The lack of subtlety and continuity makes a lot of the scenes either unnecessary or makes them bleed into one another. I wouldn’t recommend watching this movie, unless you’re particularly interested in hearing bad accents, non-sensical fight sequences, and the one and only Nic Cage. And let’s be honest, you’re definitely reading this to watch some Nic Cage.
Just watch a different Nic Cage movie, instead.