Prisoners of the Ghostland

Prisoners of the Ghostland

In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor, whose adopted granddaughter Bernice 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.

  • Released: 2021-08-31
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Genre: Action, Horror, Thrillers
  • Stars: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley, Nick Cassavetes, Tak Sakaguchi, Yuzuka Nakaya, Young Dais, Lorena Koto, Canon Nawata, Louis Kurihara, Tetsu Watanabe, Yunho, Charles Glover, Cici Zhou, Takato Yonemoto, Shin Shimizu, Matthew Chozick, Constant Voisin, Maya Carraz, Ilsa Levine, Yurino, Chiho Fujii, Christina Virzi, Riko Shibata
  • Director: Sion Sono
  • I_Ailurophile - 14 November 2022
    A strange left turn, sustained for 100 minutes
    While not truly knowing what to expect, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enter this film with certain expectations. I've seen several of filmmaker Sion Sono's movies and enjoyed them (I especially loved 'Love exposure' and 'Why don't you play in hell?'). This comes in the midst of a strong period in recent years in Nicolas Cage's career, including 'Mandy,' 'Colour out of space,' 'Willy's Wonderland,' and 'Pig.' And while I'm less familiar with Sofia Boutella, any time I have seen her I've been impressed (Gaspar Noé's 'Climax,' 2017 action-thriller 'Atomic blonde'). While not all equal, Sono's pictures commonly claim wild, unorthodox flavors of over the top, playful embellishment, so with Cage on board as such, who better to tackle a tale smashing together the western genre, Japanese culture, facets of horror, and traces of John Carpenter's 'Escape from New York?'

    As quickly as 'Prisoners of the Ghostland' begins what comes across is that, perhaps encouraged by the opportunity to make his first picture in English, Sono seized the chance to be as absolutely Extra as he possibly could be. Everything here seems cranked up to 11 and self-indulgent - the production design and art direction, stunts and effects, scene writing and direction, characters, narrative, plot development. Even at that, in many ways this still feels like it fits neatly within the filmmaker's oeuvre; if the feature were a wholly Japanese production, I don't think anyone would have batted an eye at all the overcooked abstruseness - a lot of people wouldn't get it, but 'Prisoners' would be passed off as Sono being Sono, and left at that. With the greater visibility that came with the casting and nature of this production, however, scrutiny has been heightened, as though folks suddenly feel license to be critical in ways they wouldn't otherwise.

    Mind you, this is definitely not to say that this feature is or should be free from critical eyes. In an off-kilter way I'm reminded of Sono's directorial debut, 2001's 'Suicide Club': for much of its length it built a strong, cohesive narrative that was distinctly building toward something, but it reached a point where the writing took a left turn or two (or three) and coherence fell away a bit. While 'Prisoners' can claim a complete and obliquely compelling story, Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai's screenplay, and Sono's realization of it, comes across as that same bizarre narrative turn, writ large and sustained over the entirety of these 100 minutes. I admire the unswerving daring to create a feature of such extreme, disjointed, complicated, and muddied storytelling, embracing every weird impulse and flourish. I would have admired the film itself far more if the excess and jazzed up frills were reined in even just a tad. As it is, this is kind of all over the place, and seems like it's barely holding itself together.

    I can honestly say that I do like 'Prisoners of the Ghostland.' I think it's made very well in all ways, such as it is, and though the cast is guided into chewing scenery - well, that fits the slant of the production, doesn't it? This is outrageous and totally overdone across the board, but only by intention. I just wish the slightest measure of self-restraint had been employed at any point, because in writing and in execution the movie takes the longest, strangest, most winding, least direct road to telling its story. This simply didn't need to be as much as it is. I don't even know who I would recommend this to except for folks who already know and are enamored with Sono's style, or similarly odd fare, and even then it will be hard-pressed to find appeal with all. I commend everyone involved for the work they put into it, and I believe 'Prisoners of the Ghostland' turned out better than not, but I also can't begrudge anyone for disliking a title that goes out of its way to be fancifully and outlandish.
  • pokorny - 8 June 2022
    Post-modernist irrelevance.
    Take Fellini, Pasolini, Kurosawa, Ken Russel, Jodorowsky, add a bit of Tarantino, stir it up and hope for the best. Perhaps if the script was written by Murakami one may end up with something. As it is they ended up with a hotchpotch of pretentious, pseudo avant-garde, postmodernist nonsense.