• Josh Aboody

Nutshell Review: Prisoners of the Ghostland

PG Score: 4.75/10

Prisoners of the Ghostland was released in theaters and made available to stream on 9/17/20

Prisoners of the Ghostland is an unapologetically bizarre genre mashup that ultimately falls victim to its aimless execution. Director Sion Sono (Love Exposure and Cold Fish) hurls plenty of innovative ideas at the wall, but only a few of them stick long enough to make any semblance of a lasting impression.


Set in the dangerous Samurai Town, the experimental horror adventure centers on a merciless bank robber (Nicolas Cage) who is released from prison by the notorious warlord known as The Governor (Bill Moseley). In exchange for his freedom, he tasks the bandit with locating his adopted granddaughter (Sofia Boutella), who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Pick a Lane

The movie’s main issue is a lack of identity. It is tonally conflicted as it shifts from strange humor to even stranger attempts at digging into a deeper meaning to all the madness. The script from Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai is a pitiful affair riddled with dialogue that rotates between boring and nonsensical (or a combination of the two). These glaring faults are exacerbated by poor pacing as the oddball action-horror inches along at a sluggish rate with many scenes overstaying their welcome. Boring and ludicrous make for a bad pairing in almost any context and Prisoners of the Ghostland is no exception.

Bright Spots

Thankfully, the film is not devoid of redeeming qualities. Cage, Boutella, and Moseley all turn in commendable performances for their crazy characters. There is also some impressive cinematography to admire as the protagonist’s journey through the wasteland unfolds. The sword fights and gunplay sequences are the most notable highlights. The clash of steel and exchanging of hot lead serve as compelling cinema thanks to Sono’s trained eye. At its peak, the action is well-choreographed and grisly. It is a shame there is not more to be found within the 103-minute runtime.

Bold Effort. Subpar Execution.

Incoherent storytelling and surprisingly dull presentation stifle the latest bold effort from visionary filmmaker Sion Sono. A zany Nic Cage performance and satisfying action set pieces are drowned out by a sea of surreal inferiority. For all its fearless strides towards reaching the coveted cult classic status, Prisoners of the Ghostland takes twice as many steps in the opposite direction.

PG Score: 4.75/10

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