Sometimes style is the substance. This is the case for this delightfully weird but solidly engaging feature that feels very much like an alternate closing film for this festival. What you’re about to experience might have a strong influence from a million other titles, but everything original comes from somewhere else. In this case, the execution might not be completely flawless but it has its own charm in the way it is done and overdone and over-the-top but still very much tells a mostly consistent story. If you’re not hooked by the first thirty minutes, it might get tiring by the second half.
Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021) is written and directed by Sion Sono based on the screenplay by Aaron Henri and Reza Sixo Safai. The Governor’s favorite, Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has made her escape under the cover of night and into the dangerous wasteland known as the Ghostland. The Governor (Bill Moseley) will not let this go. A man taken prisoner after a failed heist attempt, gets one chance at freedom if he can find Bernice. This man is a hardened criminal, but now he will be known as Hero (Nicholas Cage). Hero also has bombs strapped to his neck, arms and testicles just so he finds the girl, unharmed and untouched.
This one is definitely a genre film. We have a town of crazy, colourful characters and full of gunmen and samurais ready to do battle and led by the Governor and booming with wealth while we have the Ghostland where crazy scavengers have somehow organized themselves under the leadership of the charismatic Enoch (Charles Glover). This is where Hero will end up after running into apparent ghosts but later being rescued by the Rat Man (Young Dais). Of course, this is the kind of film where Nicholas Cage actually seems sane compared to everyone else. Don’t expect him to be overshadowed, this is Cage of course and he’s the driving force for the most part. The degree of overacting might get to you after a bit, but as long as you’re invested you’ll pull through.
Recommended with reservations. Most genre film enthusiasts and Nicholas Cage fans will love it. It’s a dystopian, post-apocalyptic playground overflowing with engaging characters, this one is just a wild roller coaster ride. Visually it’s a feast for the eyes, with extensive world-building happening in every nook and cranny. It is derivate from other works but has a charm of its own that I couldn’t help but find endearing, however it can walk the annoying line at some points. Your mileage might vary.
That will do for now.