Prisoners Of The Ghostland

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Prisoners Of The Ghostland
"Despite the whole thing being incredibly messy, it's eye-gogglingly enjoyable at the same time." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

What sort of film do you fancy? Something like Mad Max? A western... only set in the east? Something that reminds you of Terry Gilliam with a few zombies thrown in for good measure? Sion Sono's latest is so bristling with different ideas that if you don't like one of them, you just need to wait around for a few minutes and he'll probably come up with something you do. If you see a large gumball machine in a Sono film you can bet the farm he won't disappoint you by not using it to the full - this is a director who knows how to set up a visual and then deliver the goods, even if the narrative is all a bit secondary.

With so much going on, it's just as well he's got Nicolas Cage along for the ride. He's the sort of actor who, when given the opportunity, surfs these sorts of giant waves of mayhem as though they were mere ripples, somehow soaking up the energy and reflecting it while still having enough charisma not to be wiped out - no wonder he gets a lot of work.

Copy picture

Here, his character name, Hero, tells you just about all you need to know about the guy, who in a classic set-up is a bank robber offered a chance of freedom by a kingpin type known as The Governor (Bill Mosely, sporting a white suit you just know won't stay that way).

The catch? Hero has to rescue The Governor's "granddaughter" (for which, read slave geisha) Bernice (Sofia Boutella) and just in case Hero gets any ideas - he's strapped in a special suit fitted with bombs in the sleeves and, to stop the threat of romance, another set by his testes. The clock is ticking, of course... and you remember that gumball machine.

Off Hero goes at the gallop to the Ghostland of the title, a beautifully crafted post-Apocalyptic township, which is stuck in a sort of inescapable limbo - unless, of course, you happen to have a hero to hand. There's a back story about a nuclear accident and some mumbo-jumbo about time standing still but despite the whole thing being incredibly messy, it's eye-gogglingly enjoyable at the same time. Hero, needless to say, finds Bernice - sadly, the costume department doesn't stretch to ever giving her a pair of trousers - and the pair of them go on a sort of set-piece extravaganza to get back to The Governor. None of this makes more than about a thimble of sense, but it is still remarkably watchable thanks to Sono's determination to deliver on everything he sets up, Cage's general abandon and some neat martial art work from Tak Sakaguchi.

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2021
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A notorious criminal is sent to rescue an abducted woman who has disappeared into a dark supernatural universe. They must break the evil curse that binds them and escape the mysterious revenants that rule the Ghostland, an East-meets-West vortex of beauty and violence.

Director: Sion Sono

Writer: Aaron Hendry, Reza Sixo Safai

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes, Bill Moseley, Tak Sakaguchi, Yuzuka Nakaya

Year: 2020

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Sundance 2021

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If you like this, try:

Mad Max: Fury Road