One of the best things to come out of Japanese cinema in the last twenty years is the budding friendship between actor Tak Sakaguchi and director Sion Sono. To date, their bloodlettingly hilarious 2014 action comedy, Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is one of my own loosely listed top-ten favorite films in the last ten years (I’ll probably make a decent list before the year is out… we’ll see), and it’s been an especially wonderful journey of my own to discover Sono during my readership of his work on numerous sites before launching my own.
This, coupled with Sakaguchi’s own renewed success in the last five years rejoining longtime friend and film cohort Yuji Shimomura for CQC revenge thriller, Re:Born, in addition to partaking on subsequent projects like Red Blade and Shinsuke Sato’s dazzling period action manga adaptation epic, Kingdom, makes following these two so much more worthwhile with Jeremy Kay reporting for Screen International magazine from AFM on the long-awaited Nicolas Cage thriller, Prisoners Of The Ghostland.
Following his seething performance in Panos Cosmatos’ darkly winsome and psychedelic 80s-set revenge drama, Mandy, Primal star Cage was cast for the film last May in what is currently billed as Sono’s debut English langauge movie. Actress Imogen Poots, coming off of this year’s back-to-back pair, black comedy The Art Of Self-Defense and sci-fi drama Vivarium, joined the project this past February in reports just hours before news broke of the celebrated Tag and Tokyo Tribe director’s heart attack that week which reports confirmed at the time was non-life threatening.
The news makes it safe to say that Sono will undoubtedly be back in the director’s chair very soon as production is currently scheduled to begin next month, and with a cast that rounds out even moreso with Climax co-stars Ed Skrein (Deadpool, Midway) and Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde, Hotel Artemis), and J-rap recording artist and NCBB member Young Dais also joining the cast.
Maverick Japanese auteur Sion Sono plunges us into an exciting live-action East meets West vortex of beauty and violence. When a notorious criminal, Hero, is sent to rescue an abducted girl who has disappeared into a dark supernatural universe, they must break the evil curse that binds them and escape the mysterious revenants that rule the Ghostland.
Untitled Entertainment’s Laura Rister is producing with Michael Mendelsohn of Patriot Pictures, and with full financing by Union Patriot Captial Management. Eleven Arts’ Ko Mori is also producing next to Reza Sixo Safai and Nate Bolotin of XYZ Films which is also handling international sales at the American Film Market this week.
Effectively next to Young Dais who debuted in Sono’s hip-hop gangster musical action comedy Tokyo Tribe, Prisoners Of The Ghostland also serves as an English langauge debut for Sakaguchi which is kind of a big friggin’ deal, as it is delightfully surprising. In the U.S. DVD release of Shimomura’s directorial debut, Death Trance, there’s an interview among the special features with Sakaguchi discussing the film as well as his career trajectory stating (and I’m generally paraphrasing since I can’t find the video for an exact quote), that he didn’t really have a huge desire to expand outside of Japan and into Hollywood. That’s not to say he wasn’t at all interested, and I suspect it was simply a matter of time before choosing. His past woes regarding talk of retirement in 2013 seem to be flipping favorably for the actor in the opposite direction, and much to his own benefit and proliferation as an action star favorite, and after more twenty years since gaining traction with the likes of directors Ryuhei Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi, Yoshihiro Nishimura and Noboru Iguchi to name a few, it only makes sense that he now joins the pantheon of today’s powerhouse Asian action stars now proliferating in the world’s eye next to Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Jeeja Yanin, JuJu Chan, Lewis Tan, Sunny Pang, Julie Estelle and so many more.
Funimation Films just screened Sakaguchi’s most recent appearance in Fantasia fave, Kingdom which will undoubtedly get a Blu-Ray release that I easily recommend going into 2020, and horror streamer, Shudder recently announced its acquisition of Re:Born which goes live tomorrow on Thursday.
It’s an exciting time to be a Tak fan. Eyes open, people.