Prisoners of the Ghostland
Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021) movie review
Prisoners of Ghostland stars Nicolas Cage as a bank robber who is given the chance to be free if he risks his life to travel to a mysterious place to rescue the daughter of a powerful warlord known as The Governor. While the film was released earlier this month, it actually saw its first run at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Regardless, while critics seem somewhere between mixed about the film, even holding a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences generally hate the movie.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this movie. I didn’t watch the trailer beforehand, so I only knew it was a new Nicolas Cage movie. Now those usually don’t bode well anymore, but after Pig (2021), anything is possible, right? Wrong, Prisoners of Ghostland is a terrible film that you don’t need to watch. If you have one takeaway from this review, just know that. Sure I’ve seen some people who argued that if you go into the film expecting a campy B-movie with Cage, that’s exactly what you get. Sure, why not. I agree with that. And if it were at all interesting, I would even say it’s worth watching for any Cage enthusiast. But it’s not even ‘So Bad, It’s Good.’ it’s just a really bad movie.
Now to be totally honest, after being reminded what a bad B-movie really looks like, I bumped Hames Wan’s Malignant from a 2/10 to a 3/10. At least that film knew what it wanted to be. (I guess?) This not-so-exciting, not-at-all-scary in-no-way-sci-fi fantasy thriller, which by the way is marketed as an action/horror/sci-fi, can barely decide on a character arc for Cage’s ‘hardened’ criminal who ends up being redeemed by a flashback where we learn he isn’t a horrible person. Just- make him a horrible person? Seriously part of the story building is that this place he ends up going to is guarded by ghosts of his past or something? But we end up being told he’s more of a sympathetic character than originally introduced. So what’s with the ghosts??
Now it would be hard to break a film just on a faulty character arc. Fine, how about a slew of two-dimensional characters brought to the screen by terrible performances across the board? Cage of course beings the same frantic, unrefined energy that seems to be the driving force behind his hiring for these projects. That and that he will do them. In other words, he’s somehow the quintessential overactor who managers to underact when it comes to the odd choices of physical damage that he takes via a suit that blows up pieces of him if he deviates from his task. Which by the way looks really dumb.
The supporting cast doesn’t fair much better. Bill Moseley plays Colonel Sanders- I mean, The Governor. Not only is this the most hilariously two-dimensional obviously villain by the end, but he manages to do it without missing a beat. Which is to say that the film makes no effort to make this baddie a character in any way. Sofia Boutella is in the film! That’s about all she does too. She’s in it. And given absolutely nothing to do. Tak Sakaguchi played an interesting character who is given one scene of B-story and quickly sidelined until the finale, where he doesn’t get to do much at all.
There are also a few minor performances that are so over-the-top you’d think you watching the most insane movie Cage has ever made. (Which is what he said about it.) Sadly, you aren’t. Sure it’s crazy and there’s lots of nonsense, but none of that is put to good use. Look at a film like Mandy (2018). The crazy colors and hyper energy is put to good use to create a consistent sense of tone and atmosphere. Not to mention that Cage is put to good use! Ghostland constantly goes out of its way to attempt and fail at capturing the same energy. Plus, as potentially interesting as the unique world is, the more outrageous elements of the film don’t seem to line up with the world itself.
While there isn’t much that happens during this poorly-paced tonal mess, the idea that the ‘Ghostland’ itself gets little resolution might be the most appalling element. Sure we have to make time for going back and dealing with the true baddie, but the film spends more of its runtime concerned with Cage and Boutella trapped by Ghosts only for that- not to matter by the end. But hey at least Nicolas Cage gets a sword arm! So that’s- ugh I hated this dumb movie and its utter nonsense that it called a story. It’s really a very typical story wrapped in chaos to make you think that its original and fantastical. Really its a boring cliché that I ended up laughing at more than any other emotional reaction that the film wanted me to have. Sadly, the laughs were few and far between, as Prisoners of Ghostland isn’t even worth watching ironically. 2/10.
So yeah, Prisoners of Ghostland? Did you watch it? Did you feel like a prisoner too? Or did you like it more? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know what we should write next! Thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince