Review: Prisoners of the Ghostland

Directed by Sion Sono and written by Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai, a notorious criminal must break an evil curse in order to rescue an abducted girl who has mysteriously disappeared. Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley, Nick Cassavetes and Tak Sakaguchi.

If you took a bunch of dystopian films like Mad Max, Battle Royale and Escape from L.A. then stuck them in a blender with any Jason Statham or Liam Neeson flick and added a dash of supernatural horror, you might end up with something like this. Whether that sounds fantastic or terrible to you will probably denote whether you’ll enjoy it or not. Put simply, if you can just take this for what it is, stick your feet up and go with it, you’ll probably have a good time. On the other hand if you want to dissect the story and are hoping to dive into something overtly coherent, you’ll probably struggle with it. There’s a lot going on and granted, some of it does feel like nonsense because there just isn’t the time to develop it. However, you simply have to give it the benefit of the doubt and not tug too much on its unanswered threads. Otherwise, Prisoners of the Ghostland moves at a good pace, keeps up the energy and doesn’t leave you with a wandering attention span.

The first thing you’ll notice about this film, opening with its bank robbery scene, is the incredible use of colour by director Sion Sono and cinematographer Sôhei Tanikawa. It’s vibrant and energetic, capturing the chaos and spirit of the story and building an atmosphere to match. You might be expecting something extremely violent but surprisingly, it’s fairly downplayed. That’s not to say it isn’t violent, but instances of gore and blood are more sporadic than anticipated. The impact that has creates something more of an adventure than an all out brawl. However, it might be nice at some point to stop having saviour stories led by misogynistic male characters with a clear capacity for violence against women and rape.

Leading well into talking about Nicolas Cage who could probably do a role like this in his sleep, it fits well into his usual M.O. with a great deal of exaggeration and anger. It has his iconic touch of eccentricity, he’s not an entirely new style of character but Cage adds a unique spin. Sofia Boutella is a great support and adds a bigger balance to the story but she doesn’t get too much of a chance to break out and does feel like a slightly odd choice for this role. Whereas Tak Sakaguchi fits perfectly as Yasujiro but it feels as though the story doesn’t do him justice. It’s a sincerely eclectic mix of characters, some make more sense than others but they’re far from boring.

Prisoners of the Ghostland is bursting with colour and energy, it’s a chaotic adventure which may not completely add up but that doesn’t need to stop you from enjoying it. Cage brings his usual eccentric, manic energy to a role that is certainly no challenge after his action packed filmography. It has its ups and downs but this is a film to simply sit back and go with it for an easy, entertaining watch.

Verdict: ✯✯✯

In Cinemas from 17 September

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