PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND (2021) Reviews and streaming news

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Prisoners of the Ghostland is a 2021 Japanese-American action horror film directed by Sion Sono (Tokyo Vampire Hotel TV series; Exte: Hair Extensions; Strange Circus; Suicide Club) from a screenplay written by Aaron Hendry (actor in FollowersMichael Jackson’s Halloween; Teen Wolf TV series; Bedeviled) and Reza Sixo Safai (actor in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night).

The movie stars Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella (The Mummy; Star Trek Beyond; Monsters: Dark Continent) Bill Moseley (3 from Hell; Crepitus; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2; et al), Imogen Poots, Ed Skrein (Tau; In Darkness; Deadpool), Young Dais and Tak Sakaguchi (Re:Born).

Plot:

In the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town, a ruthless bank robber is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor, whose adopted granddaughter Bernice has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway.

Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within five days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption…

Reviews:

Prisoners of the Ghostland doesn’t have a lot going on in terms of storytelling complexity or character development. The movie is designed as an exercise in gonzo style. There are definitely spots when some expansion of those things would have been welcome […] Without more depth, all the kooky goings-on intermittently feel empty.” The Aisle Seat

” …while not for everyone, this post-apocalyptic East-meets-West semi-satirical surrealist adventure film will put a huge grin on the faces of anyone who can roll with its mix of glorious nonsense and genuinely interesting ideas. Cage’s expectedly over-the-top acting isn’t even close to the wildest thing about this movie.” CBR

“Sion Sono is a visionary mad man — an artist who continues to strive in his stylistically obtuse films that feature riveting social commentary. Prisoners of the Ghostland is no expectation, and while it ironically falls for some of the conventions it clearly mocks, the film more than justifies its existence with an unhinged Cage performance and some kick-ass production design. ” Filmhounds

“A mashup of idioms that sends Cage into a kind of netherworld to rescue (read: re-kidnap) a young woman for a petty tyrant, it alternates between too simplistic and incomprehensible, spending much of its time in between those poles in the “I understand, but I don’t care” zone. Destined to be quickly forgotten…” The Hollywood Reporter

Prisoners of the Ghostland is a film about a fallen world that will be lost in time until it can escape the chaos of its own creation. Hero can only hope to earn his name and save his testicles if he finds a way to weaponize that chaos into freedom. Lucky for the wretches of the Ghostland, Sono and Cage have forged an alliance that shows the entire world how to do just that.” IndieWire

” …Sion Sono’s movie is as illogical, absurd, ridiculous, stupid, and insanely entertaining as I hoped it would be […] Despite it occasionally crossing the line and becoming too much for me to manage – it becomes seriously confusing – as long as the viewers are well-prepared to accept every jaw-dropping new development, fun is guaranteed with this brilliant satire.” MSB Reviews

“Though this romp isn’t quite as ‘larger than life’ as I was anticipating, Nicolas Cage always is. Prisoners of the Ghostland is a charmingly chaotic ride of two cinematic worlds colliding, creating a timeless Dystopian action flick that’s a ball-busting good time.” Nightmare on Film Street

“Much like Sono’s previous films, Prisoners of the Ghostland is eye-catching. The costumes, ranging from radiation fallout gear to the lavish traditional robes, tell as much story as any expositional dialogue. The sets, while occasionally looking like soundstage stand-ups, continue the director’s aggressive dadaist approach […] A great reminder that whirlwind action movies don’t need to cost $200 million.” Polygon

“Don’t be at all surprised if Prisoners of the Ghostland becomes a Midnight favorite, despite its lack of narrative thrust and surprisingly tame finale. This won’t be the last we see of this infernal union of Cage and Sono. Their first movie together gives us Nicolas Cage in a testicle bomb suit.” Punch Drunk Critics

” …a great set-up for a movie that makes it a little frustrating that Sono seems to lose the plot in the center of it, meandering through his post-apocalyptic vision with a surprising lack of momentum. It’s also, for the director of crazy pieces of work like Forest of Love and Why Don’t You Play in Hell? a little tame in the end. Yet there are also incredibly Sono-esque flourishes…” RogerEbert.com

“Cage doesn’t stop, not even when he has to give the motivational speech as the “chosen one” that will make the impossible possible. This is a quite violent film, although without reaching the most brutal, horrifying and controversial Sono of Cold Fish; there are stylized duels, sword thrusts, bullets and, of course, blood spurts. Prisoners of the Ghostland is absolutely bonkers and one of the most satisfying efforts by the great Sono Sion.” Screen Anarchy

“The film isn’t burdened with genre conventions and as a result, his film has an original vision that plays like Mad Max kabuki theater. From nightmarish visuals to elaborate costumes, this blend of East meets West is a choreographed symphony of strange from start to finish. It’s a ridiculously good looking movie, with brightly colored hues and stunning cinematography.” Screen Zealots

Prisoners of the Ghostland is sometimes too self-consciously cool for its own good; an indulgent odyssey which lets its narrative focus and action sequences slide in favour of eerie visuals, eccentric performances and jarring one-liners. Depth is there if you care to look for it – the lost and the disenfranchised, held prisoner by the ghosts of their own past – but it’s buried under layers of weird cult chanting, creepy mannequins, sneering villainy…” Starburst

” …the good news here is that even when so clearly bored, Cage is never boring. That means even though this script — credited to Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai — appears to have been written with the express intent of being absurd, the worse it is, the more fun Cage can have with it.” Variety

“As weird as Prisoners of the Ghostland can get, it’s got a cohesive narrative carried forward by Nic Cage. After a certain point, though, the prisoners and the rat people and all the other trappings of the world began to feel a bit like set dressing to me, and the movie felt a little busy.” Voices from the Balcony

“The director’s gift for visual style is certainly on display, from a running motif involving gumballs to the cherry-blossom petals that rain down on the bordello compound, but it’s all in the service of a flat piece of storytelling. All the creepy mannequins and primary-colored flashbacks in the world can’t bring us into a story that just isn’t there.” The Wrap

Release date:

In the USA, Prisoners of the Ghostland had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

RLJE Films will release the film theatrically, on Digital HD and VOD platforms on September 17, 2021. DVD and Blu-ray releases are scheduled for November 16, 2021.

In the US, the film will stream on AMC+ and Shudder from November 19, 2021.

Background:

In December 2018, Nicolas Cage told a masterclass on acting at the 3rd International Film Festival and Awards Macao:

“I’m thrilled about it! It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It might be the wildest movie I’ve ever made, and that’s saying something. It’s out there. I wear a skintight black leather jumpsuit with grenades attached to different body parts, and if I don’t rescue the governor’s daughter from this state line where they’re all ghosts and bring her back they’re gonna blow me up. It’s just crazy. It’s way out there.”

Notes:

We originally posted about Prisoners of the Ghostland on Feb 21, 2019. This updated post includes a host of reviews and its latest release news.

Trailer: