The Polygon entertainment team is registered with the 2021 Sundance Film Festivalgoing virtual for the first time. Here’s what you need to know about the indie gems soon to find their way into streaming services, theaters, and the cinematic zeitgeist.
Logline: When Bernice (Sofia Boutella) goes missing in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, her wealthy, well-connected adoptive grandfather releases a bank robber (Nicolas Cage) from prison, straps him into a leather suit equipped with bombs and gives him five days to retrieve them – or explosive consequences to have.
Longer line: Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono made a career out of extremism. Films like the four-hour sex and religion romp Love exposure and the street gang musical Tokyo tribe are the daydreams of a film madman. Pairing him with Cage not only seems like a good idea, it also sounds like cosmic law. These two messy titans would have make a movie together before they finish it.
Go too deep into the act of Prisoners of the spirit land is less of a spoiler issue than a futile attempt to describe a genre mash-up with hedonistic impulses, but here’s a foretaste: After a botched bank robbery spilled innocent blood, “Hero” (Cage) and his bulky accomplice (Nick Cassavetes)) are imprisoned in the dungeons of the city of Samurai. In the east-west niche, samurai roam the streets and a gentleman from Kentucky Fried named The Governor (Bill Moseley) rules like a mob boss. The governor recruits Hero as his own one-man suicide squad to get Bernice out of the post-apocalyptic dead zone behind the walls. To ensure that the criminal does not become too handy, the Mafioso locks the hero in what is known as the Chekovs leather suit. If something goes wrong on the mission, it is valuable body parts. There are even two tiny bombs on hero’s testicles. No spoilers, but Sono doesn’t let the ball hang in the air for long.
What follows is basically that of Nic Cage Mad Max: Anger Street. The title’s “ghost land” is an irradiated zone with a fair share of infected citizens looking for a better life and zombie-like creepsters for Cage to plow through. When Hero bonds with Bernice, the two will reveal the secrets behind How Things Got This Way and why some desert cultists are shouting “THE PROPHECY! ”And“ Thick Red Blood! ”Throughout the trip, Hero recalls the traumatic moments of the robbery and works his way through the injustices of his past to find something that resembles redemption. He also battles a few ninjas .
What is? Prisoners of the spirit land try to do? Hit the bombast of Hollywood blockbusters against the bombast of Japanese action cinema to see what catches fire. From elevating a motorcycle cage as the pinnacle of cool (someone off-screen literally saying “He’s … so cool”) to the almost mocked Kurosawa tropics, Sono has global taste and no hesitation when it comes to putting any stray idea on the screen. Unexpectedly, however, it is one of the director’s main efforts. Which could easily turn into one crank-like exercises in hyperactivity are performed with a steady hand and an appreciation for the details. Sono wants their audience to do it enjoy in the brutal beauty of Boutella with a Gatling gun.
In his notes for the film, Sono says that during Prisoners of the spirit land brings a penchant for pop entertainment to the screen: “What I really wanted to create behind all the distortions of modern society that make the unreal world a reality. I think we live in an irrational world. “Hard to disagree, although the film doesn’t spend a lot of time considering these distortions. Yes, Ghostland is the by-product of a toxic spill, and its residents, good and bad, suffer. But the potential social or environmental comment never appears. Instead, we see what we get: the “ghosts” are literal, the radiation timeline is mythology, and the decimated world is fertile ground for Hero’s Journey prophecies that Cage is the “most powerful clock” or something. Sono seems to have challenged himself to make the most entertaining movie ever.
The quote that says it all: [Extreme Nic Cage acting voice] “I’m radioactive.”
Is it going there? Prisoners of the spirit land is prepared for the slot house slot with a few drinks in the midnight film. It’s an adorable love letter to action movie excesses naturally presented in a less than ideal home venue. Like the Wachowskis Jupiter Ascending or literally: Who Framed Roger Rabbit?Sono uses cartoon nonsense logic to get Cage to each of the movie’s unexpected milestones. The governor is American obviously He strolls in white and a cowboy hat. The samurai warriors might as well be RPG NPCs taking part in a sword fight set for Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle”. A sequence depicting the accident that melted the landscape into a decaying shadow of its former self flutters across the screen like the pages of a manga. A star who perfected the mouth-agape-raised eyebrow “anger?” Face is the glue that holds all parts of the collage in place.
But let’s not underestimate Cage. It rises to Sonos level. With strange sprayed Ken doll make-up and Lee Marvin killer energy, Cage becomes a living action figure. He even has Kung Fu handle! In a sequence in the third act, Cage (or at least a pinpoint double-armored body) walks the head samurai from head to toe, delivering movements that keep up with the kinetic camera work. If only Sono had found more for Boutella, Prisoners of the spirit land could have achieved cult status immediately. With action credits like Kingsman, Atomic blonde, and Star Trek Beyond According to her name, she is more than capable of performing stunts and choreographies. Sono loses her in Cage’s shadow, but she can really make that Gatling gun sing.
Similar to previous Sonos films, Prisoners of the spirit land is an eye catcher. The costumes, which range from radiation dropouts to elaborate traditional robes, tell as much story as any expository dialogue. The sets sometimes look like soundstage stand-ups, but continue the director’s aggressive Dadaist approach. One minute of Sono takes viewers to the Tokyo-inspired streets of Samurai Town, seconds later we’re in Ghostland, a junkyard that was built over hook. It’s full of curiosities.
What does that bring us? A great reminder that whirlwind action films don’t have to cost $ 200 million. Sonos production may never catch on like Japan’s anime exports or Korean writers like Bong Joon-ho, but a whole catalog awaits for those worn out by the homogeneity of American superhero cinema. Prisoners of the spirit land is a good, digestible start.
And a note on Cage, after a few financial struggles emerged in the 2010s, the former A-lister was suspected of logging into every script that crosses his desk. Okay, yes, there are stinkers in his filmography to support the theory, but Cage shows up in contrast to Bruce Willis and his current DGAF-on-DTV career Every damn movie he’s in. He seems to find the elixir of life in the strange and extreme. Sono is on the same quest. There’s no wink cynicism to cast Cage in this role. He’s a big movie star without big movies. Prisoners of the spirit land demands his style.
The most memorable moment: In case it’s unclear above … I really want to talk about what happened to the testicle bombs.
When can we see it? Prisoners of the spirit land will come from RLJE Films, the distributor of the other crazy Cage films, later this year Mandy and Color from the room.