Like many of us Nicolas Cage fans, the arrival of a fantasy apocalyptic film that features Cage as the main attraction is a project worth paying attention to. One such movie is the latest release directed by Sion Sono titled “Prisoners of the Ghostland“.
The film is a bizarre hodge podge of genres that lies somewhere between fantasy, action and apocalyptical Asian cowboy drama. In fact one might say it’s more surreal than anything paying homage a bit to Mad Max atmosphere and Asian spaghetti (if that makes any sense to you!)
I must confess it took me a few viewing to try and stay with the narrative here, which was much more rewarding once I had the subtitles to read thru some of the more difficult portions and foreign languages to sift thru. Though don’t let that discourage you a this film really was intended to appeal to a cult audience.
Nicolas Cage, a criminal bad ass is tasked by the “Governor” (Bill Moseley) to do that which he is unable….. the rescue of the Governors grand daughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella).
Now things are not going to be easy for Nicolas (who really goes unnamed through this film) as he is forced to wear a leather suit that has strategically placed explosives by his neck and crotch to prevent him from not sticking to the protocol. The reward is his freedom.
“Prisoners of the Ghostland” starts off very dreamlike as it moves into a universe of the weird and wonderful and somewhat artistic at times environment. It’s clearly mounted in its own timeline centering on 2 locations, Samurai Town and Ghostland (the areas that more or less filled with groups of crazy people who seem to be rooted in their own agendas and insanity). What I think might be frustrating for viewers is that, the experience is much like walking into a conversation that started an hour ago. We really don’t know the full context, the areas of humor, or the dramatic details leading up to its presentation. There are segments that try and explain the past a bit which are still confusing and convoluted. Now Nicolas Cage, the anchor of this story is also exuding his own levels of craziness which mixed with the characters of this story just a big ball of whack.
As we close into the finale, the action lights up taking things into a more Tarantino revenge sort of direction giving the film a path to some sort of closure, which essentially is Cage and his cohorts battling things out to the death. Was the film visual and unique? Certainly
Was it digestible? Not so much. The Strange post-apocalyptic elements are designed to take the characters on a seek and rescue journey here but lack connection most of time. We know that this colony of Ghostlanders are holding back a clock to prevent time from moving forward and appear to have their own system of beliefs and coexisting. Does it resonate? Not really.
The quotes from the cover of this release are pretty compelling, but in reality it is a bit of a weird droll at times in its 1 hr, 45 minute roll out, so take them with a grain of salt.
Would I call this one of Nicolas Cage’s better films, not necessarily but in the same breathe it’s not the stinker that the film Willy’s Wonderland was (where he never speaks a word). It has style, flair, and stands unique but maybe not a contender with “Face off” either.
So with all that said, Prisoners of the Ghostland offers a unique experience that is best experienced “once” before moving on to better things. Some viewers will appreciate it for its art and style, others will not.
Nicolas Cage is an actor to watch and wait for. We know there are good scripts ahead, we just don’t know when they will rear their heads. Like many of these releases, he still is fun to listen to and watch and that might be the only redeeming aspects of this film.