Director: Sion Sono
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley, Tak Sakaguchi, Young Dais, Charles Glover, Cici Zhou, Louis Kurihara, Tetsu Watanabe, Takato Yonemoto, Shin Shimizu, Matthew Chozick, Constant Voisin, Yuzuka Nakaya, Koto Lorena, Canon Nawata, Hiroshi Kaname
Runtime: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Coarse Language))
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 7 October 2021
Synopsis: In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber (Nicolas Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Bill Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman— and his own path to redemption.
While no longer a big bankable name in major studios produced pictures, Nicolas Cage remains a tour de force in the indie filmmaking circle and direct-to-video market. Although the member of the Coppola family has been receiving praise for his performances in Mandy, Color Out of Space and recently for Pig, Cage’s career remains very much an enigma at this point. It seems that not even Ghost Rider himself can stop Cage from earning his paycheck so here’s another offbeat, wild outing from the Academy Award and Golden Globe winner.
Set in apocalyptic Japan where anything goes, Hero (Cage) a criminal imprisoned for a botched bank robbery is released by the Governor (Bill Moseley) to track down his missing adopted granddaughter, Bernice (Sofia Boutella) who is supposedly stranded in the Ghostland. To ensure that Hero finishes his mission, Hero is fitted with a combustive outfit that will blow his head and balls apart. Five days are all he has to complete his mission.
As numerous flashbacks tell us, we learnt that Hero’s past is somehow connected to Bernice. There’s a bank robbery that went awry. There’s a nuclear waste explosion. There’s redemption to be made by Hero and he is going to overthrow the Governor paving the road to freedom for the people of wasteland. Sounds exciting? But that’s all on paper.
Prisoners of the Ghostland is directed by Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono known for his quirky and subversive films. So when you have an actor liked Cage and a filmmaker liked Sono, “normal” shouldn’t exist in this particular cinematic collaboration. Unfortunately, while it’s definitely not “normal”, it’s not entirely ground breaking either. Truth to be told, it’s way too boring to worth your time. You wish simply someone just went ahead and detonate the two bombs located on Hero’s testicles and we can walk out of the hall.
It’s not to say Prisoners of the Ghostland is not entirely without merits. If you are a person who is into sizzling visuals, outrageous bizarre characters, this movie has plenty to offer you. Samurai Town who is run by the Governor is a cross between a sleepy old American Wild West and pre-modern Japan. The Ghostland on the other hand is a complete wasteland, reminiscent of Mad Max and inhibited by weird looking outcasts and beings. Even the background actors are dressed as if they are invited to the Met Gala. The production, costume design and set décor are at its visual best. Everything is set to go except for the plotting and narrative.
For a movie that is filled with samurais, cowboys and anti-hero, visual is just not enough to keep the viewers’ interest. There are long stretches of where time passes and nothing of much substance happened on screen. Cage as usual tried his best to elevate the material with his increasingly exaggerated acting and for whatever reason, it doesn’t work. His onscreen madness might work at times but he is not that lucky this time round. Or maybe it’s because Sono is trying too hard to carve out some meaningful social messages out of the sloppy scripting although we prefer to blame it on language barrier. Likewise the various action sequences are too compromising, tacky and surprisingly PG13 to make much of an impact.
It’s surprisingly tame overall for a movie liked Prisoners of the Ghostland. And you thought it’s going to feature lots of fetish sex and squeamish violence given the premise. Admittedly, it also suffers from a paper-thin story despite the cool visuals. For fans of Cage, his next movie is just round the corner. For the rest of us, don’t bother to even call.
(The most exciting aspect of this flick is watching Cage’s testicle getting blown out. No joke)
Review by Linus Tee