Sundance 2021: Prisoners Of The Ghostland – Review

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What would a midnight madness festival programme be without a new Nicolas Cage film? Sundance delivers the goods with Prisoners Of The Ghostland. A film that delivers on the promise of guano insanity. A polite way of saying it is bat sh*t crazy. In a mostly good way.

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.

Director Sion Sono’s first English language film is wild fusion of Eastern and Western influences. Samurai Town is full of, as one would expect, Samurais and Geishas but it is styled like a Western outback post. And there to put the wild into the Wild, Wild West, it’s Nicolas Cage.

When he arrives in the titular Ghostland (imagine a settlement from Fury Road as imagined by Takashi Miike) looking for the missing girl, he is seen as a potential saviour and Road Warrior-type figure. Instead of Mad Max, think Crazy Cage.

Fans will be delighted to know that Sono is able to tap into that frentic energy and charisma that only Cage can provide. Screaming “Hi-F*cking-Ya!” or “Testicle” at the top of his lungs, with the delivery and commitment of a thespian performing Hamlet at the Globe.

The film mirrors Cage’s performance but with so much happening from a visual and expository level, it borders on overload. The result is an uneven, messy but unashamedly enjoyable picture. The story might have been better suited as a limited series than a 100 minute movie. Allowing it to take its time and explore the crazy world it has invented. Rather than sprint towards the ending for a violent but underwhelming climax.

Prisoners Of The Ghostland doesn’t quite deliver on its outlandish premise but Cage does enough to merit it getting a release due to good behaviour.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Director: Sion Sono
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley
Runtime: 100 minutes
Country: USA

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