Much like Nicolas Cage’s recent theme-park horror Willy’s Wonderland, Prisoners Of The Ghostland is a film with a cool sounding premise (and an excellent trailer) which is let down by its poor execution. Cage himself described Prisoners Of The Ghostland as ‘the wildest’ movie he’s ever made and that’s likely very true – but sadly this Sion Sono directed sci-fi/samurai/western, is not one of the actor’s stronger efforts. Sono’s film is crazy for sure, but it lacks real narrative focus. Having said all that, if you’ve ever wanted to see a movie where Cage ends-up holding one of his own bloody testicles after it gets blown-off by an explosive device strapped to his groin – then this is very much the movie for you.
When The Governor of Samurai Town’s granddaughter (Sofia Boutella)
escapes slavery runs away, he tasks Cage’s bank-robber, Hero with finding her and bringing her home. Bolted into an explosives-packed leather suit which is set to self-destruct in five days, Cage ventures into the post-apocalyptic wasteland to find her. Throughout his journey he discovers all sorts of weirdness along the way.
Credit where it’s due, Nicolas Cage seems to go out of his way to find distinctive material. Even his so-called generic action films have an air of originality to them – and Prisoners Of The Ghostland certainly looks and feels original. The plot may seem like yet another take on John Carpenter’s Escape From New York (with a touch of Mad Max: Fury Road), but the merging of the science fiction genre, Japanese Samurai film and the western make for a curiously tantalising combination. Unfortunately, this Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai scripted film feels like it was thrown together from a three line synopsis, some good looking concept art and Cage’s name signed on the dotted-line. It’s a film of images and moments which is lacking a proper plot.
No-one scrimps on a performance level. Cage keeps things relatively subdued – one which occasionally hits the type of high note that you would expect – especially during the afore mentioned testicle scene (which admittedly will raise and groan and a chuckle). Horror icon Bill Moseley chews the scenery as the sleazy Governor of Samurai Town and Sofia Boutella adds some humanity to the on-screen insanity.
Disappointing because of its boring plotting, Prisoners Of The Ghostland is a massively waisted opportunity. It’ll likely live long as a cult movie – but for a movie which promised so much, it actually delivers very little. On the plus-side it does give Nicolas Cage fans a new meme to worship online, so there’s always that, I suppose.
Prisoners Of The Ghostland comes with a decent smattering of extras. There’s a brief 8 minute making-of which features input from Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella and Bill Moseley alongside a FrightFest 2021 introduction from director Sion Sono and producer Ko More moderated by Alan Jones .