Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021)

Director: Sion Sono

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavettes, Bill Moseley, Tak Sakaguchi, Yuzuka Nakaya

With a prolific career spanning decades, Sion Sono has become known as one of the most idiosyncratic filmmakers working today. For his English-language debut, Sono has ensured his first overseas production doesn't lose any of his distinctive touches. The set-up sees a ruthless bank robber (Nicolas Cage) sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Bill Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing. The prisoner is offered freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway, although he must do so strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within five days.

Mixing post-apocalyptic imagery with samurai and western touches, screenwriters Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai have combined numerous ideas for a unique blend, yet a lacking structure leaves it feeling unwieldy at times. There's a sense of wonder regarding which wacky elements will stick and while some add to the tapestry of this fascinating world, others appear to be included for the sake of weirdness.

Like puzzle pieces, this film's combination of director and star fits well as Sono's distinctive style is complimented by the casting of Nicolas Cage. His unhinged portrayal delivers, with a highlight being him screaming "Testicle!", yet that isn't all to his performance. Cage does excellent work conveying the prisoners regrets, as the journey he forcibly takes makes him confront past sins and the hurt his actions have caused.

Within the treacherous confines of Samurai Town, Bill Moseley is a hoot as the dictatorial Governor while Tak Sakaguchi's a compelling presence as the Governor's conflicted Sherriff. A stand-out is the ever-reliable Sofia Boutella, who captures Bernice's determination to risk everything so long as she escapes the cult running her home. She's a key part of numerous action scenes this film terrifically delivers, although the moments in-between them may test ones patience. While much doesn't work in Sono's latest, there remains much to admire in this tale of prisoners trying to overcome their captors.

Prisoners of the Ghostland is available in cinemas and on Digital Download from 17th September