Prisoners of the Ghostland – SUNDANCE 2021 Review

Synopsis: A notorious criminal must break an evil curse in order to rescue an abducted girl who has mysteriously disappeared.

From direct-to-video action films to sitting in the driver seat of auteur-driven, genre cinema, Nic Cage has performed an impressive career transition. His latest inventive genre effort, Prisoners of the Ghostland, paints Cage as a reckless mercenary in a world where Eastern and Western cultures collide. As you could guess, Cage’s abrasive delivery makes for endlessly compelling cinema. Whether he’s yelling about an exploded testicle or delivering lines with a cooler-than-cool flow, few are more engaging than Cage in the prime of his shlocky shtick.

A somewhat goofy concept finds compelling ground under director Sion Sono’s poised control. The Japanese director’s English-language debut comes with his typical verve intact, allowing audiences to bask in the colorful pleasures of his twisted dystopia. His visual dynamism elevates chaotic sword-fights and straight-forward gunplay into an extravagant feast for the eyes. I also love the ways Sono uses the dissident styles to reflect on Western culture’s oppressive hold on the Eastern sensibility, portraying his worthwhile thematic conceits through clever bits and a plethora of exaggerated stereotypes.

Prisoner’s isn’t always at the top of its game, as the surface-level screenplay fails to engage on a thematic or narrative level. The deficiencies require Sono and Cage to carry the film on their shoulders, but they prove to be capably up for that task. It’s an endearingly unkempt ride, one that offers a few clever introspections into its own genre conception [B].

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