Have you ever scrolled through Instagram and discovered some deliriously over-the-top dish? Like a nine-tiered sundae covered in Oreos, hot Cheetos, gummy worms, and birthday cake, with a hazelnut sauce made of actual gold shavings. It seems fun and exciting until you sit down, spoon in hand, to eat all that shit.
That’s my Prisoners of the Ghostland review in a nutshell. With Nicolas Cage as his muse, genre movie maestro Sion Sono lets his freak flag fly in a neo-western samurai apocalypse flick. If that sounds like a lot to absorb, it is. Imagine someone hired David Lynch to direct Escape from New York, and you get the picture.
Nicolas Cage continues to embrace his reputation as Hollywood’s most gonzo Academy Award-winner. He plays the Hero, an imprisoned bank robber and all-around badass. A man called the Governor (Bill Moseley) releases the Hero from jail on one condition; he must track down a runaway woman named Bernice (Sofia Boutella). If the Hero doesn’t return with Bernice in several days, the “cool guy” leather jumpsuit he’s trapped in will explode.
Prisoners of the Ghostland has its moments, but they’re best appreciated with the volume off. Cinematographer Sôhei Tanikawa captures a couple of legitimately thrilling action sequences. But that’s not enough to make this 100-minute fever dream worth your time.
While Prisoners of the Ghostland has a plot, that’s not why anyone would watch this flick. It works best as a kitschy pleasure. With all his screaming, flailing, and facial contortions, Cage comes across as a human Looney Tunes character. His only goal is to find ways to out-Cage his last zany role. This is fun, I suppose, in a meta way and if you’re in on the joke. But it’s frustrating if you’re expecting to watch a coherent movie.
Sundance 2021 runs from January 28th until February 3rd. Click here for more Sundance coverage.