If you decide to watch a crazy, stylized Nicolas Cage film, you best prepare to watch a crazy, stylized Nicolas Cage film, which is exactly what one gets with “Prisoners of the Ghostland.”
There is a big line down the middle of Hollywood. Some people make big, exciting, enjoyable blockbusters. And some people make small, weird, artsy films. Neither one is better than the other, though I do tend to prefer the former. “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is firmly in the latter category. It’s a weird, boring, mish-mash of a film that can at least be appreciated for its message.
“Prisoners of the Ghostland” was playing at Cinema Capitol, and is available at home on video-on-demand.
Nicolas Cage plays an unnamed bank robber who finds himself imprisoned in a post-apocalyptic place called Samurai Town, which is run by a southern-fried fella named The Governor, who has combined the aesthetics of the Wild West and the age of samurai. The Governor frees Cage and sends him on a mission into the haunted Ghostland to rescue his escaped “granddaughter.” Madness ensues.
Nicolas Cage has been on a strange career trajectory for years now, so much so that it’s practically an inside joke. Cage makes weird movies, and he at least seems to try. “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is another notch in his weird belt, even though his performance does not carry the film.
If you were interested in this movie because you like Cage’s weird career, “Prisoners of the Ghostland” does not deliver. He’s very restrained in this film, save for a couple of funky line readings here and there. What few action scenes were do get feel very stunted and underdeveloped. Cage is just not particularly entertaining in this one.
The film around him isn’t very good either. The look of the movie is pretty flawless, I’ll give it that. The aesthetics of Samurai Town are a whiplash of styles, which are then contrasted against the barren, dusty landscape of the Ghostland. Director Sion Sono is a Japanese director with a very popular list of films in certain circles, and he knows how to make a movie look good.
But “Prisoners of the Ghostland” just isn’t very fun to watch. It drags in a lot of places and it does not do enough to establish characters that are supposed to be important.
Of course, all of that might be beside the point if you instead watch the film for its message. Apparently, “Prisoners of Ghostland” is a movie-long commentary on Hollywood’s recent rush to appease China as the new box office overlords. Does subtle messaging make a movie better? It didn’t for “Prisoners of Ghostland.”
Forget the Nicolas Cage name on the marquee. “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is not a film worth watching unless you’re already a fan of director Sion Sono’s work or you just really like oddball indie films.