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MOVIE REVIEW

Epic missing warrior mentality

`Nomad' has great sweeping scenery for a somewhat dull tale of a fictional unification of Kazakhstan.

March 19, 2007|Kevin Thomas | Special to The Times

"Nomad: The Warrior" is a throwback to those elaborate but stultifying international productions of several decades ago. This sweeping tale of the mythological unification of Kazakhstan has great scenery, sets and costumes, but writer-producer Rustam Ibragimbekov 's script lacks originality.

The direction by Sergei Bodrov and the eminent Czech veteran Ivan Passer is similarly by the book. Not even the action sequences have much punch. (For the record, one of the film's executive producers is Passer's fellow Czech Milos Forman.)

Although technically superior in every way to those vintage Italian sword-and-sandal epics, "Nomad" in its English-language version suffers from the same stilted, formal dialogue, one-dimensional characterizations and wooden acting. Take away its widescreen format and beautiful color photography -- and the nagging contemporary image of a certain fictional tele-journalist -- and "Nomad" could just as easily have been shot 80 or 90 years ago.

For that matter, it might have been more effective as a silent, since elementary, declamatory dialogue reads better in intertitles than it sounds coming out of the mouths of actors who might also have been more effective as mimes. Indeed, "Nomad" cries out for the energy and passion of a D.W. Griffith or a Cecil B. DeMille or, better yet, Sergei Eisenstein. As it is, "Nomad" seems remote and nearly lifeless.

The mystic Kazakh warrior Oraz (a stalwart Jason Scott Lee) tells a sultan that his newborn son has been "chosen by the stars to unite all Kazakhs" and thereby overthrow the oppressive rule of the invader Jungars.

To that end, Oraz raises the son, Mansur (Mexican actor Kuno Becker), and another boy, Erali (Jay Hernandez), as brothers, along with a youth from each of the tribes, to become superb warriors capable of defeating the despotic Jungar ruler (Doskhan Zholhzhaxynov).

The close bond between Mansur and Oraz finds them falling in love with the same girl (Ayanat Yesmagambetova) and caught in a particularly cruel twist.

That "Nomad" is old-fashioned it not a sin; that it is dull is.

*

"Nomad: The Warrior." MPAA rating: R for violence. 1 hour, 51 minutes. English-language version. Exclusively at the Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.

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