I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an actor blurb his own movie, but we’re talking about Nicolas Cage here and nothing surprises us anymore — but given Cage’s track record of churning out bizarro B-movies such as “Color Out of Space” and “Willy’s Wonderland” and “The Wicker Man” and “Mandy” and we’re just getting started — is “Prisoners of the Ghostland” really the wildest movie he’s ever made?
I’d put it in the Top 5 for sure, but that statement by Cage turns out to be more of threat than a promise, as “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is an “Escape From New York”-meets-“Mad Max” ripoff that desperately wants to be a bonkers, midnight drive-in cult classic but doesn’t have the camp value or the memorably off-the-wall storyline to make the cut.
Directed by the veteran Japanese creator-of-chaos Sion Sono, “Prisoners of the Ghostland” is a Samurai Western set in the obligatory post-apocalyptic future, where Cage’s Hero (that’s his character’s name) has been imprisoned for years for his part in a bank robbery that turned into a horrific bloodbath. Hero is dragged from his cell and paraded onto the Main Street of Samurai Town, where the men wear cowboy hats and are armed with guns and swords, and dozens of heckling geishas are crowded into holding cells. Bill Moseley, clad in all-white suit with red gloves and speaking in an exaggerated drawl that makes him sound like the latest character actor playing Colonel Sanders, is the Governor, who informs Hero he’s “the man to do the job” of venturing into the vast wasteland known as Ghostland to retrieve his granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella), who has disappeared without a trace.