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Nicolas Cage Grimaces and Bears It Through Baffling Genre

This evaluate of “Prisoners of the Ghostland” was first revealed after the movie’s January 2021 premiere on the Sundance Film Festival.

Prolific and wildly eccentric Japanese auteur Sion Sono has spent most of his profession on the dizzying level at which arthouse bravado meets grindhouse gonzo, and his greatest movies stretch the boundaries of narrative as far as to go away viewers concurrently gobsmacked and exhilarated. It’s maybe inevitable that he would cross paths with Nicolas Cage, an actor whose post-Oscar movie selections have tended to veer into the grimiest edges of style, leading to a really combined bag of delights and duds.

One may need hoped that “Prisoners of the Ghostland” — Sono’s English-language debut, starring Cage, and making its world premiere at Sundance — would have elevated Cage to Sono’s degree, however sadly, it’s finished the other. While the movie far outshines most of Cage’s current efforts (he was direct-to-VOD when direct-to-VOD wasn’t cool) when it comes to artwork route and fearlessly madcap storytelling, the outcomes are nonetheless muddled and messy.

It’s unimaginable to recap actors-turned-screenwriters Aaron Henry and Reza Sixo Safai’s plot with out sounding unhinged, nevertheless it principally boils all the way down to a financial institution robber recognized solely as Hero (Cage) being compelled by corrupt, white-suit-wearing The Governor (horror legend Bill Moseley) to rescue The Governor’s “granddaughter” Bernice (Sofia Boutella), who disappeared after escaping his brothel.

To be certain that Hero is not going to hurt her, The Governor places him in a leather-based jumpsuit with strategically-placed explosives designed to regulate his habits and to pressure him to finish the job in only a few days. Driving down the identical freeway Bernice did, Hero finds himself taken to the Ghostland, the place everybody lives in concern of a clock that should be held in place, lest a nuclear explosion happen, one that may be prevented provided that The Governor dies.

There are samurais and cowboys and 18-wheelers and zombies and convicts uncovered to nuclear waste, and this all sounds way more entertaining within the description than “Prisoners of the Ghostland” manages to be in execution.

Not that the movie doesn’t have Midnight Movie potential: The narrative might be greatest served by viewers members being not solely awake or not solely sober, the higher to benefit from the sing-along scene, or the swordfight set to a mellow Jim Croce tune, or the half the place Cage yells, “Karate chop you!” at a possible assailant.

Sono’s movies definitely aren’t recognized for following a straight line from A to B — one in every of his biggest works, 2008’s “Love Exposure,” is a gender-fluid saga of superheroes and authentic sin and up-skirt panty images that’s 4 hours lengthy and by no means lower than riveting — however this time round, there’s barely any inside logic or guidelines and even stakes to make this jumble of style tropes remotely attention-grabbing.

The director’s reward for visible fashion is definitely on show, from a operating motif involving gumballs to the cherry-blossom petals that rain down on the bordello compound, nevertheless it’s all within the service of a flat piece of storytelling. All the creepy mannequins and primary-colored flashbacks on the planet can’t convey us right into a story that simply isn’t there.

RLJE Films is releasing “Prisoners of the Ghostland” in theaters on September 17.

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