What do you get when you cross daddy Nic Cage, a Samurai sword arm, a Wild West-meets-Japanese-village and weird mutant ghost people? If you think that sounds awesome, you’d be right. It does SOUND awesome. Unfortunately, Sion Sono’s “Prisoners of the Ghostland” turned out to be a major disappointment, with an indescribable emptiness keeping the audience from ever really falling in love with this strange new world.
On paper, Prisoners is a cult classic. Outlaw Cage, referred to only as the Hero, is given the task of safely finding and returning the daughter of the corrupt town’s governor. In order to make sure Cage falls in line, the Governor outfits him with a specialized leather suit armed with explosives that will blow up Cage’s arms, throat or testicles (yep, testicles) depending on how he’s transgressing orders. If he fails to return in five days, all five bombs will go off at once. Cage has to make a journey into the mysterious Ghostland to retrieve the girl or he can kiss his life — and his balls — goodbye.
Despite having a killer concept for the movie, “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is a major snooze fest. The titular Ghostland is nothing special at all visually, and the journey to get there was surprisingly quick. Discovering the world didn’t feel earned, and the world itself isn’t worth much in the first place.
The loose plot meanders on without taking any real risks. Certainly not “The wildest movie I’ve ever made,” to quote beloved cult star Cage himself. Weird, yes, but the film somehow manages to play it safe despite literally having a shot of Cage holding his own testicle in his hand and screaming in horror.
All that being said, “Prisoners of the Ghostland” isn’t ALL bad. Some of the imagery is genuinely exciting to look at and the fight scenes, though few and far between, are expertly choreographed to maximize entertainment. If director Sono chose to focus more on the mind-numbing aspect of this action flick, it would have been a true blast. Instead, the audience is presented with metaphors and deeper meanings that aren’t fleshed out enough to feel genuine.
The highlight of the film is without a doubt Cage’s performance, a surprise to absolutely no one. Cage has grown a lot since his Academy Award-winning days of the late ‘90s and early 00s, choosing more recently to focus on grungy, underground films by Indie studios.
Listen, “Prisoners of the Ghostland” was pretty bad. That much is true. However, if you can’t manage to muster a little enjoyment out of it you would have to be an incredibly bland human being. This is Nicolas-fucking-Cage we’re talking about. If you want highbrow cinema go watch some Netflix original starring White Boy of the Month. Nic Cage is White Boy of All-Fucking-Time.