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Nomad - The Warrior
cast: : Kuno Becker, Jay Hernandez, Jason Scott Lee, Ayana Yesmagambetova, and Mark Dacascos

directors: Sergei Bodrov, Ivan Passer

111 minutes (R) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Genius / Weinstein DVD Region 1 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
About as good as can expected of any historical action movie, in which Jason Scott Lee (Bruce Lee in Dragon, 1993) plays the wisest man in Asia, this longer version of Nomad tells an 18th century war story about a Jongar invasion of Kazakhstan. But US distributors have slapped on a standard English dub and a wretchedly bad, and obviously predictable, romantic framing plot (apparently created by the Czech born Ivan Passer) for the numerous epic battles, in a possibly misguided effort to make the curiosity value of this essentially tribal drama, about the descendants of Genghis Kahn, more acceptable if not quite palatable for American audiences.

Mansur (Kuno Becker) and Erali (Jay Hernandez, Hostel) are like blood brothers in arms, trained by ageless seer Oraz (Jason Scott Lee) in his self-fulfilling prophecy that a single lowly warrior of noble birth - of course! who else? - would rise up to unite Kazakh tribes and lead them against reportedly fearsome Jongar oppression. However, the young fighters' supposedly arduous training is rather more spiritual in nature, often punctuated by Oraz's campfire lectures, than the macho manner of gruelling apprenticeship for combat served by Arnie in Conan The Barbarian, and the sundry narrative parallels between the sultan's son and heir being raised in the wild, of Nomad, bear little comparison to the genuinely mythic, inherently worthy variation posited for once and future King Arthur, in Boorman's classic Excalibur, or the other filmic visits to Camelot.

Fumbling and derivative, if not quite uninteresting, event-wise, so far, then and with nothing of merit except a few other borrowings from obscure period-warfare movies to sustain viewers' attention throughout the first hour... But now along comes the damned baddie Sharish (Mark Dacascos, from Crying Freeman, Drive, Brotherhood Of The Wolf - proving that he can do both acting and action), making a formidable and lasting impact upon the on-going storyline despite the relatively brief duration of his screen time. Dacascos is indeed an impressive villain here, in fight scenes that are blatantly reminiscent of Troy.

The memorable heroine, Gaukhar (Ayana Yesmagambetova, managing to stand her ground against established stars) doesn't really have the appeal of legendary Helen, though, and most of her time in Jongar captivity is spent off-screen (anyone hoping for lurid slave-girl episodes must look elsewhere), but she's a very notable presence in scenes depicting the Kazakh tribes' dependency on horses, man-and-beast action which cleverly evokes traditional wild west clichés with a compelling style that's not unpleasant to find in such a peculiarly Eurasian movie this.

Overall, then, if you liked Troy, Gladiator, Bang Rajan, and other films of that ilk, you're bound to be interested in Nomad but, surprisingly, I found it somewhat less enjoyable than electrifying Korean swordplay adventures Bichunmoo and Musa The Warrior, and certainly never so breathtakingly stylised as Tusi Hark's Blade (aka: Dao, 1995) or Zack Snyder's magnificent Spartan opus, 300.

This import DVD has Dolby digital 5.1 soundtracks in English and Kazakh, with the appropriate English (plus Spanish) subtitles.

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