As if to redress the cultural inaccuracies of
we now have a Russian-made epic on the founding of modern Kazakstan.
is, while not very good, an old-school battle epic (unlike
, there were real locations and a real cast of thousands
about the 18th-century quest to unite three warring tribes to form one country.
Any reference to modern-day Iraq is purely unintentional.
Nomad is old-school in another way, as well. It harks back to those sand-and-sandals epics of the 1950s and '60s, with an international cast that speaks in awkwardly dubbed English. Even the English speakers are awkwardly dubbed. (Apparently, like a spaghetti western, the cast members spoke in their own languages, and the film was later dubbed - in Kazak, for the locals, and in other languages for its various international audiences.)
Mugging for a paycheck this time are Kuno Becker, the Mexican actor who starred in Goal! The Dream Begins; Jay Hernandez (World Trade Center), and Jason Scott Lee, whose signature film continues to be Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.
Lee dominates the film's first half-hour, as his character, Oraz, has a divine revelation that the leader who can unite the Kazak tribes for the first time since Genghis Khan has been born. He corrals the infant savior, rescuing him from a tribal massacre, and raises him as his own. He also takes, with parental permission, the best and the brightest from the three tribes and educates them in what would today be called a terrorist training camp. The difference here is that they are raised as Kazaks and not as their various tribal ethnicities.
Eventually, the savior Mansur (Becker) grows up and takes over the movement. His main obstacle is a tribal lord who has kidnapped his girlfriend and captured his best friend (Hernandez). Mansur himself is captured and must go through a strange and not very credible series of tests to prove his worthiness.
By the time the climactic battle to unite the tribes occurs, directors Sergei Bodrov (Prisoner of the Mountains) and Ivan Passer seem either to have lost interest or run out of money. The battle is ineptly staged and unsatisfying. When combined with a simpleminded script, the battle might have been won, but the war was lost.
Nomad * (out of four stars)
Produced by Ram Bergman, Pavel Douvidzon and Rustam Ibragimbekov, directed by Sergei Bodrov and Ivan Passer, written by Ibragimbekov. With Kuno Becker, Jay Hernandez, Jason Scott Lee. Distributed by the Weinstein Co.
Running time: 1 hour, 51 mins.
Parent's guide: R (bloody violence)
Playing at: UA Washington Township 14