Cult Japanese film-maker Sion Sono (Love Exposure, Suicide Club) never shies away from an opportunity to shock and surprise with lashings of gore, weirdness and lurid, louche lunacy. Nicolas Cage, meanwhile (now practically a cult himself), loves to rage, bellow and glower in offbeat low-budget films, apparently the kookier the better. They’ve teamed up for this beyond-bonkers, cross-cultural bricolage of styles and influences, and the result is predictably excessive, noisy and more than a little exhausting. But mostly in a fun way, as long as you’re not bothered by gratuitous violence, incoherence and a deep streak of silly.
The setting is some kind of future Earth/parallel universe/post-apocalyptic zona – the why and when is not really important – that’s a mashup of neon-streaked Tokyo fleshpot and Mad Max-style wild west dystopia. A warlord called the Governor (Bill Moseley, hamming it up almost as much as Cage) runs a brothel-prison from which one of his favourite “granddaughters”, Bernice (Sofia Boutella, underused), escapes with three other comfort women. So the Governor hauls our nameless hero (Cage), a former bank robber, out of pokey and sends him off to find Bernice. But first he zips the hero up into a leather jumpsuit rigged with tiny bombs that will blow bits of his anatomy up should he try to hurt her, including explosives attached to each testicle.
Off the hero goes into a wasteland populated by demented extras dressed like an am-dram ensemble playing the rats in a Pied Piper production, folks with bits of broken mannequin parts glued to their bodies, and religious zealots who like to give backstory-revealing presentations with cue cards. Is it wrong to find the funniest part of the film is when one of the bombs goes off and blows up Cage’s left nut? It’s a really good bit, as is the scene towards the end where Bernice’s “sister” (Yuzuka Kakaya) mows down half the cast with a Gatling gun.
If that’s not your cup of tea, then at least it’s pretty hard not to be entertained by Chieko Matsumoto’s exquisite costumes and Toshihiro Isomi’s Mutoid Waste-style sets, or the antic energy emanating from the extras, itself combustible enough to jumpstart a rusting nuclear power station.
Prisoners of the Ghostland is released on 17 September in cinemas.