(director: Sion Sono; screenwriters: Aaron Hendry/Reza Sixo Safai; cinematographer: Sohei Tanikawa; editor: Taylor Levy; music:Joseph Trapanese; cast: Nicolas Cage (Hero), Sofia Boutella (Bernice), Nick Cassavetes (Psycho), Bill Moseley (The Governor), Tak Sakaguchi (Yasujiro), Yuzuka Nakaya (Susie), Takato Yonemoto (Takato), Charles Glover (Enoch), Jeffrey Rowe (Gunman), Narisa Suzuki (Geisha Gal); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Michael Mendelsohn, Reza Sixo Safai, Laura Rister, Ko Mori, Nate Bolotin: Patriot Pictures/RLJE; 2021-USA/Japan-in English, also Mandarin, French, Japanese, with English subtitles)

“It could be entertaining to the right viewer.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The combo of lunatics in the film world working the same film–the nutty action-pic American actor Nicolas Cage and the Japanese cult filmmaker Sion Sono(“Tokyo Vampire Hotel”/”The Forest of Love”)–pretty much ensures you get a pic that’s head-scratching and off-the-wall. Which is what you get in their mash-up of this samurai western and post-apocalypse horror thriller. It’s written by Aaron Hendry and RezaSixo Safai, who are dealing with The Dirty Dozen themed bad guy rescue film genre, but veer off in their own strange directions when telling their rescue story of a missing woman, Bernice (Sofia Boutella), from a barren wasteland (filled with nuclear wastes) in Japan known as the Ghostland. It’s a haunting place where the population is enslaved by the establishment.

The nameless
incarcerated hostage killing bank robber (Nicolas Cage) is ordered by the despotic warlord, the wealthy white-suited slimy governor (Bill Moseley) of a rough town that’s a mix of samurai and ancient Japan, to go on this dangerous mission to find his granddaughter, a prisoner of his, who ran away from him. Thereby the Cage character is placed in a booby-trapped leather suit set to self-destruct if he goes astray on the mission.

What follows in this stylistic but mindless adventure film are
bloody sword fights and gun battles, as Cage is the hero trying to free the enslaved people and rescue Bernice from the grip of her vile grandfather.

Nick Cassavetes makes a welcome cameo as a gun-crazy psycho (the bank robber partner of Cage, who did the hostage killings); and, the dazzling martial arts movements of Tak Sakaguchi, the governor’s conflicted henchman, are also a welcome sight.

The scenario is grim, the landscapes are bleak, the pacing is dreadfully slow, but the film’s overall visuals are beautiful.

While the story is meaningless, demented and has no real emotional impact, but
it could be entertaining to the right viewer–one who doesn’t mind watching a pic that has Cage’s testicles blown off.

REVIEWED ON 12/26/2021  GRADE: B-