Following on from the excellent MANDY (2018) and COLOUR OUT OF SPACE (2019), Nic Cage appears in another avante-garde offering called ‘PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND’ (2021). Cage stars as a condemned man recruited by a wealthy stranger to locate and rescue his daughter imprisoned by some bizarre cult like group. Though a simplistic premise, the movie itself is anything but one note and even the two-minute trailer evokes two adjectives: boldly insane.
Whether real or imagined, this trailer immediately reminded me of the bizarre ‘EL TOPO’ (1970) directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Drawing from symbolism from both East and West, the characterisations in ‘PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND’ (2021) unashamedly wear its influences on its sleeve; adapting cowboys in westerns, sword fighters from samurai films and a clear post-apocalyptic setting – again boasting the premise that, anything goes.
As it courts various genres, the trailer itself looks somewhat messy and incredibly unfocussed; but perhaps this lack of polish is very much a deliberate style choice to appeal to lovers of all that is grind house. Quite often this mash up will only succeed on the basis of its tonal shifts and interesting characters that the audiences will be drawn to; yet in this instance, the strength of the film will be largely contingent on its cast, which also include Tak Sakaguchi from the revolutionary ‘VERSUS’ (2000), cinema greats like Bill Mosely and Nick Cassavetes and even dancer Sofia Boutella.
As with Cage’s eclectic efforts over the years, this new offering boasts a fascinatingly diverse colour palate that liberally machine guns its influences with reckless abandon.
It is unlikely that this film will blitz the box office, yet it serves as another admirable example of how Nic Cage will attach himself to any project – though he may seem detached in some roles, his proactive choice of roles of late, may suggest that he is simply having fun. That unpretentious and free spirited approach is a rarity, and will no doubt attract new film makers to him, in addition to new audiences that appreciate his broad creative appetite.
The Japanese Director Shion Sono, is known for crafting tales of marginalisation and despair often peppered with intense violence, bloodshed and questionable sexual references. Consequently, one could view Sono as more of a cult film maker just as Cage has gleefully become a cult actor with his diverse film choices. This certainly will not be on everyone’s radar, but given its unapologetic vibrant no-holds barred presentation this may indeed pique enough interest to solicit a dedicated fan base that will lobby for a sequel.
This Japanese style of film making is very avante garde, but it has its devotees such as the incredible IFBB Pro League Physique Champion Tessa Densley who described this Japanese sub-genre as: “A highly imaginative and visually descriptive journey into a landscape of horror-esque and bloody intrigue, sewn together in various storylines in which a character takes a journey that extends past the mind of the average viewer – thereby taking you into a surreal landscape that captivates” With this apt descriptor, it is fair to predict that this may be that enjoyable romp that will prompt some to pursue the iceberg of offbeat modern cinema.
And in case you are wondering, my absolute bias to Cage is not accidental but by design – with my forthcoming script on Count Dante being written with Cage in mind for the title role of ‘The Deadliest Man Alive’
Streaming on major platforms from November 3
DVD and Blu-Ray available from November 17