In the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the future, the gaudy, neon-splashed frontier city of Samurai Town is the closest thing to civilisation, ruled over with an iron fist by the sleazy, despotic Governor (Bill Moseley).

When the Governor’s adopted “granddaughter” Bernice (Sofia Boutella) blows town in a stolen car and heads into the radioactive Ghostland, “a stretch of highway where evil reigns,” the Governor springs from prison the only man who can bring her back, taciturn outlaw Hero (Nicolas Cage), forcing him to wear a leather jumpsuit equipped with explosives at the limbs, neck and testicles which the Governor has designed to prevent Hero from, ahem, “soiling his property.” With just three days to find and bring back Bernice before his suit self-destructs, Hero is going to have risk his body, balls and soul to complete his mission…

Shuffling styles and tone like my 6-year-old niece dealing cards in a stacked game of blackjack, I wanted to love Prisoners of The Ghostland, Japanese trashmeister Sion Sono’s English language debut. It has Japanese cowboy gunslingers, laconic samurai, singing geishas, mutants, ghosts, swordfights, gunfights, splatterpunk over-the-top violence, a schlock apocalyptic landscape halfway between Tarkovsky’s washed out Stalker and Caro and Jeunet’s lush Delicatessen and Nicolas Cage back in Nouveau Shamanic mode and sporting an exploding bollock leather suit as the antihero Hero.

And yet, for all it’s eye-popping visuals and splashy violence, Prisoners of the Ghostland is a fairly staid, turgid affair. Nothing much actually happens and Cage himself is remarkably subdued, although his strangled pronunciation of the word “testicallls” is worth the price of admission alone. The Ghostland itself while weird, offers little real threat and looks a little like the quarry where every beloved 70s British sci-fi show was shot and Sofia Boutella has little to do, the role of damsel in distress an uncomfortable fit for her, while Tak Sakuchi’s cool samurai is a cheeky nod to the complex ronin of Toshiro Mifune (if a little bit better groomed). If anything, the film’s greatest joy is Bill Moseley’s panto villain Governor, an oily creep in a pristine white suit who looks like KFC’s Colonel Sanders. If Colonel Sanders was a despotic sex pest. Chewing the scenery like its Wagyu beef, Moseley has a whale of a time out-Caging Cage in his own film with a sleazy, deliciously perverse performance.

Visually stunning but strangely static, any film with Nicolas Cage in an exploding bollock suit really should be more fun than Prisoners of the Ghostland.

Movie Review: Prisoners Of The Ghostland
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