Nicolas Cage continues his metamorphosis into Bruce Campbell with Prisoners of the Ghostland, the primary English-language movie directed by Japanese provocateur Sion Sono. Pairing a singular nut like Sono with a singular nut like Cage is likely to be probably the most impressed director-star team-up since Werner Herzog — additionally a singular nut — let Cage off his leash for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. In fact, we all know the Herzog-Cage experiment paid off (three phrases: fortunate crack pipe), now let’s see if Sono can let Cage out of his, uh, corral.
The Gist: A spot, presumably however not actually on Earth, in a time, presumably however not actually sooner or later: A constructing, at first presumably, however ultimately actually a financial institution, is filled with cheerful prospects in rainbow-colored outfits. There’s additionally an lovable little boy getting a giant cupful of gumballs from a gumball machine. Abruptly, two closely armed criminals burst within the door, performed by Nicolas Cage and Nick Cassavetes. They play the criminals, not the door, which you most likely already discovered, however this being a Sion Sono film, the purpose should be clarified.
Soar forward an unspecified period of time. The place with the financial institution is named Samurai City. Bernice (Sofia Boutella) and two different girls steal away from Candy Peach Road, the place one assumes they’re slaves and/or prostitutes. One other unspecified period of time passes, more than likely shorter than the earlier unspecified period of time, and we see Cage, whose character has no title, in a cage, due to the financial institution theft. He’s carrying naught however a loincloth as he’s dragged in entrance of Samurai City’s denizens, who’re all samurai or cowboys or residents who gawk and/or cower. The Governor (Invoice Moseley) guidelines this place in his white Boss Hogg swimsuit. Bernice was the Gov’s favourite intercourse slave, so he recruits Cage Man to search out her.
The Gov’s line of reasoning behind the choice to provide a maniac an important job is simply as unspecified as the rest on this insane story, however I suppose Cage Man is tremendous robust and he ain’t fearful of shit. You’d suppose the Gov would have his private yojimbo, a mega-skilled samurai named Yasujiro (Tak Sakaguchi), observe down Bernice, however no, he wants somebody he can shove in a leather-based bodysuit lined with explosive fees that’ll blow off a person’s balls — or “testicules,” per the Gov’s pronunciation — if he doesn’t keep on job. And Cage Man is simply the person to soldier on underneath such stress. So off Cage Man goes into the post-nuclear wasteland exterior Samurai City, the way forward for his yarbles wholly depending on his success.
Efficiency Price Watching: No person’s given a lot to do right here, and Cage simply goes by way of the motions of his B-movie bulging-eyeballs persona. So let’s give this one to Moseley, longtime Z-movie dreck champion — he was taking part in shitty cops and sickos and zombies again when Cage was successful Oscars — who will get a pair moderately pleasurable alternatives to chew the surroundings.
Memorable Dialogue: Cage Man’s battle cry: “HI-F—-IN’ YAAAH!”
Intercourse and Pores and skin: Transient toplessness; Cage’s butt in old-timey Japanese man-thong unders.
Our Take: A smidgen of analysis tells me Sono’s work is often in comparison with the ero guro nansensu, a cultural-artistic motion whose title roughly interprets to “erotic, grotesque nonsense.” Sono leans most closely into the nonsense element with Prisoners of the Ghostland, a film the place incoherence is foreign money, presumably a advantage. It takes the director’s nutty imaginative and prescient — the film’s art-directed inside an inch of oblivion — to out-crazy his star, which is a mighty job certainly. It options at least: melancholy prostitutes, savage zombies, soiled moppets, slashy samurai, trigger-happy cowboys, the piteous and oppressed citizenry of apocalyptic badlands, trash scavengers and an earnest preacher, with Cage Man blended into the brew. You possibly can drop Godzilla on ludes into this factor and barely put a dent in it.
Early on, the dawdling tempo doesn’t whet our appetites for motion, and when motion lastly happens, it’s a sudden eruption of martial arts violence with no obvious catalyst past Sono’s superficial want to indicate off. The movie finds its tempo as soon as Cage Man exits the Deadwood-via-Japantown metropolis, deviating into an prolonged flashback that helps clarify the plot, and rummaging round in absurdist philosophical bric-a-brac that has one thing to do with the slaves’ want to restart the passage of time. I dunno; my focus wavered out and in so I sat on the sting of my sofa and leaned in for optimum attentiveness, and it nearly, however not fairly, helped, perhaps. It’s speculated to be a comedy, however feels anti-comical in its strategy, like Norm MacDonald bombing on goal. Understanding this film is like attempting to catch an oiled carp together with your naked palms.
By the point Cage Man will get pushed onto a redemptive path, methodically making his approach to hell, one detonated testicle at a time; by the point he hollers, “I… AM… RADIOACTIVE!”; by the point he’s giving an inspirational speech to the downtrodden previous to their revolt towards the Gov; by the point he gears up for the massive closing motion sequence although nobody can discover Boutella a good pair of pants; by the point you discover the story’s unconvincing emotional undercurrent that finally appears like a weak stream of piss in a cat-5 hurricane — nicely, it’ll all really feel like an excessive amount of. Maybe this is the reason Cage, when requested to capital-P Carry out, slur-bellows as if he’s kinda drunk.
And but. Sure, there’s an “and but.” You’ll be able to’t say the movie isn’t fashionable, Sono exhibiting beautiful management over a wild array of placing visuals, though they’re in such abundance and so various in tone and texture, I’m undecided a lot of them stick within the thoughts — my kingdom for one easy shot, please. Some moments make us really feel slow-mowed over, others give us fleeting bits of exhilaration. The rating mashes up ’80s horror synths with Sergio Leone Western twangs in overt homage. Sono is aware of what he’s doing: Funneling his cinema influences — Carpenter, Tarantino, Morricone — by way of Lewis Carrollesque jabberwocky. Perhaps it’s not speculated to make sense. Perhaps it’s speculated to elicit in-the-moment capital-F Emotions. It’s nearly actually Sono’s overt try to show trash into artwork, and for that, it’s straightforward to admire. Nevertheless it’s additionally simply as straightforward to detest.
Our Name: SKIP IT. Backside line: WEIRD MOVIE. Prisoners of the Ghostland is a visually ingenious campy shitshow. Perhaps you’ll watch it as soon as to say you probably did it, however I can’t advocate it in good religion to anybody who isn’t a nut.
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