There’s something very odd about Sion Sono’s “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” which has nothing to do with when Nicolas Cage yells, “I’m going to karate cut you down! Hi-f**king-ya! East really meets West in this world, as samurai and West iconography are layered on top of each other for a setting called Samurai City, where bloody duels across genres can take place in neon-lit streets that have always wanted the wit and artistry of the film set. left to be known. But while a world containing Cage can sometimes be eye-catching, there’s a hole in the middle of “Prisoners of the Ghostland.” No film with Nicolas Cage, directed by the wildly quirky Japanese director Sion Sono, has to be grueling, drawn-out, and tedious.
Cage is the type of actor whose galactic show draws directly from the story stakes he plays — think about the intensely emotional journey of “Mandy,” with heavy metal guitars accompanying his unrelenting journey to hell’s revenge, and the gold the film gives to we. In “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” Cage walks through most of the film in a suit aimed at blowing up his different limbs as well as his testicles. In theory it sounds like an awesome and funny character motivation, but it’s lost in whatever this film tries to pass for the plot. You come for ideas like Cage wearing testicular traps, and then you get a rambling exposition of the boundaries of ghost lands, the history of nuclear explosions, flashbacks to bank heists involving Cage’s character, and backstory for people whose emotions played on the surface level by them. Director.
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Cage’s character (named the Hero in the credits) wears the suit as a kind of guarantee that he won’t run away, as he has been forcibly asked by a powerful and evil figure named the Governor (Bill Moseley) to return his lost daughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) from a place called Ghostland. If the Hero tries to release it, it will explode in his neck; if he touched Bernice, his arm would face the same fate. If he dared to be excited around him, there were two light bulbs in his crotch. The star power of Cage’s performance, in Man with No Name mode, comes from the reading of certain lines, a few yowling moments here, or silly shots stolen there. It’s also a little interesting (in some ultra-violent outbursts) to see Cage in the form he’s been in for a long time—his own version of the samurai. Only Cage can play a role like this, but the character itself is not very interesting apart from being played by Nicolas Cage.
It was Sono’s long-awaited English debut, and he treated it like a winning spin regardless of the game. The script was written by Aaron Henry and Reza Sixo Safai, but there’s no denying that it’s torn and tangled by Sono’s unpredictable instincts, which aren’t worth the slightest bit of emotion or backstory that would give us something to pay attention to. He does very little in terms of creating momentum for the story, even though it involves some sort of rescue mission, some sort of “Mad Max” apocalypse, and a flat subplot about a samurai named Yasujiro (Tak Sakaguchi) who later adds to the film’s body count.
Sono is most concerned with getting every dollar out of his budget. It’s all about the massive set and dozens of adoring-looking background characters chanting weird stuff and singing songs, and it’s hard to get into a joke (whatever he’s thinking) when it seems it’s all a rambling set-up. The crumbling ghost of the film is huge, complete with a towering clock that many people play in tatters to stop time from passing, as one of the film’s many tangents. But it adds to the whimsical and mundane nature of the film given a sheen of white and gray — a far cry from the rich, heavy hues of Samurai City.
There’s an old Gene Siskel anecdote about whether a movie is more interesting than watching the actors eat lunch. Imagine a group of people in samurai outfits, or shoulder pads with nails, or covered in toilet paper, talking amongst themselves about what they just did in a large Sono-directed scene with the ease of a child playing with an action figure. Sometimes movies are funny because you can imagine the extra on the verge of laughter. But that charm also wears off, especially as “Prisoners of the Ghostland” proves to be a much better film at first surprising you than holding your attention (it’s mainly the grille in the second look, I know).
to see the merits of this film and not want to know more about who made it with such neglect. that. Cage and Sono are truly the same lunatic: they’re artists who don’t question themselves, and while they have a weirder sense of humor than we can understand, they’re too sincere for irony. But “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is really just the beginning; the wrong start to what it should be, and could still be one of the greatest cinematic collaborations since sound meets motion.
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