“The most insane film I have ever made.” claims Nicolas Cage. Prisoners Of The Ghostland sees a notorious criminal (Nicolas Cage) who must break an evil curse in order to rescue an abducted girl (Sofia Boutella) who has mysteriously disappeared.
Written by Jack Ransom
It’s a shame that this really turned out to be a substantial disappointment and nowhere near as fun as Cage’s other wacky outing: Willy’s Wonderland, which was released earlier this year. Though there are moments of bonkers exaggeration from Cage and some standout set design and aesthetic choices, the film is largely a derivative chore that suffers from obvious budget restrictions and only provides surface level substance (or sometimes none at all).
The narrative crux and a substantial amount of the visual style feels heavily taken from the world of the Mad Max franchise, with an added layer of absurdity to help it stand apart. A blend of cowboys, samurais and fanatics make up the various clans of the film. Unfortunately outside of brief expository dialogue/flashbacks and bizarrely cryptic yet simultaneously on the nose iconography and dialogue choices, the film offers little to no weight and only really presents frustrating intrigue in this potentially interesting world.
The pacing and structure is largely poorly handled. At just under 105 minutes the film feels too long and drags substantially throughout the mid-section. What promises and is set up to be an epic journey literally feels like Cage’s character driving around the corner to the ‘Ghostland’. There are some moments of tension with Cage’s character hooked up to an explosive suit that detonates various body parts should he not follow the rules set by The Governor (Bill Moseley), but it’s just a reworked gimmick that you have seen many times before.
The set design is solid and the mixture of Japanese samurai stylisation accompanied by traditional Western saloons is certainly unique. The Ghostland itself features a looming clock face, but just feels like they borrowed some footage from The Road Warrior and re-edited it. There’s a decent finale brawl but nothing that will stick with you after viewing.
Cage has his moments of maniacal screaming and freakouts, but his character backstory and arc is incredibly generic. Sofia Boutella is wasted here with very little lines, Bill Moseley is having fun with his usual schtick and the rest of the cast whilst suitably cooky, don’t get much else to do outside of being overly eccentric and/or just plain weird.
Prisoners Of The Ghostland is a disappointment that tries too hard to appeal to Cage’s now legendary off-kilter performance techniques. Outside of a few select stylised moments and the occasional bonkers scene, this is a largely dull and familiar affair that feels like ideas from better films stitched together.