Nicolas Cage. The name conjures scenes from brilliant films like “Adaptation.” and “Lord of War”; awesome films like “The Rock” and “Face/Off”; fairly decent films like “City of Angels” and “The Weather Man”; and SHITTY movies like “Next”, “The Wicker Man”, “Season of the Witch”, Drive Angry” and “Trespass” among others. There’s the rare occurrence where Nick appears in a great film every now and again (“Kick-Ass” is the only film that comes to mind right now). But for the past five or so years, his name has become synonymous for his laughably awful acting, his near-parodies of his trademark bitch fits, and of course, starring in incredibly bad movies. Like “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”.
For those who aren’t aware, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” is the sequel (like we needed one!) to the 2007 film “Ghost Rider” which starred Nick as the title character. Based on the Marvel Comics superhero (or should I say, antihero) of the same name, “Ghost Rider” was one of Columbia Pictures’ attempts at capitalizing at the success of its “Spider-Man” franchise and challenging Twentieth Century Fox at their game of adapting famous comic books to the big screen. As an on-again, off-again reader of comics, I actually liked Ghost Rider. His head was a fucking skull on FIRE , he rode a bad-ass bike with wheels of FIRE, and he fought his enemies with chains and FIRE! Yeah, he was a fiery dude. But somehow, I lost interest in the character since Todd McFarlane’s “Spawn” (which was blatantly inspired by Ghost Rider, by the way) came out in the mid-90s.
Of course, when the first “Ghost Rider” film came out, I just HAD to see it! The special effects with Ghost Rider riding his bike looked fucking incredible. And I still rated Nicolas Cage as a great actor, with the exception of his laughable performance in “The Wicker Man” a year earlier (you can see examples of this performance on YouTube, by the way). And it was Ghost friggin’ Rider on the big screen at long last, so it HAD to be good, right? And besides, Eva Mendes was in it. I don’t remember what her role (I mean, significance) was in the film but….she was there. She…was….there. Oh yeah!
Despite all that (in a nutshell), the movie sucked! But despite the bad reviews it received, the film was successful in the box office. As a result, a sequel was made – “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. I assume that after a year of bad films (“Drive Angry”, “Season of the Witch” and “Trespass” from last year), Nicolas Cage must have figured that this sequel would be the jump-start that his career desperately needs right now. Unfortunately, it’s just one more film flushed down the drain in the toilet bowl that is now his career.
But enough with the exposition. Let’s get started with the review. Please forgive me if my recollection of the film is sketchy, but then again, the film itself was so shitty that it’s easy to forget the events in it anyway.
Johnny Blaze, the stunt motorcyclist who made a deal with the devil to save his dad (in Part 1) which resulted in him becoming the Ghost Rider, is on the run. Is it from his past? Is it from his curse? Is it from the IRS? I’m not entirely sure, and the film itself doesn’t take time to answer my burning questions. Sigh. Anyway, a Frenchman named Moreau meets up with Johnny in Eastern Europe. He persuades him to help locate the son of a troubled woman named Nadya. The boy, named Danny, is captured during a fight between Ghost Rider and a gang of thugs hired by Roarke (a.k.a. the Devil). Roarke calls the leader of the group, an asshole named Ray Carrigan, to speak to the boy via cell phone. When Carrigan puts the phone to Danny’s ear. Roarke mutters some unintelligible shit and voila, Danny is possessed! (And remember kids, don’t accept phone calls from strangers!).
Roarke’s plan, if I could comprehend it, is to use Danny’s body as a vessel for an upcoming pagan ceremony in which the flesh will be discarded and the Antichrist will be born. And of course, it’s up to Johnny to stop him. Along his journey, he encounters a clandestine group of monks led by Methodius, who was once an angel from heaven who was betrayed (By God? By another angel? Like nearly everything in the film, it’s not explained) and cast down to Earth. According to Moreau, he was once known as the Spirit of Vengeance (or how Moreau says it: “The SPIRIT OF VAGENCE”). And while Johnny tries desperately to rid himself of his curse, he must contend with Carrigan who, thanks to Roarke, is now gifted with supernatural powers. Will Danny be saved? Will Johnny be freed from his curse for good? Will there ever be a Season 4 to the brilliant HBO animated series “Todd McFarlane’s Spawn”? Time can only tell.
Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider – Nicolas Cage
Moreau – Idris Elba
Ray Carrigan – Johnny Whitworth
Roarke/The Devil – Ciaran Hinds
Methodius – Christopher Lambert
Nadya – Violante Placido
MY THOUGHTS: From the very beginning, I knew that this film will ultimately suck. And in that right, it doesn’t disappoint in its own disappointment. The film tries to be distinctively darker than its predecessor, but is undermined by its PG-13 rating. And to make matters even worse, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who are known in Hollywood as Neveldine/Taylor, directed the film. Their high-octane, hyper-visual directing style worked well with their “mindless-fun” action films “Crank”, “Crank: High Voltage” (both of which I enjoyed immensely) and “Gamer” (which was disappointing as fuck). So you would think that their unique film-making style would add a dimension of awesome to “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. Nope, it doesn’t! Instead, we’re left with action scenes that look so fake, it throws you immediately out of the film. Not to mention, there’s a couple of WTF scenes involving Nicolas Cage/Ghost Rider that looks like something out of a MTV2 death metal music video (and no, I don’t mean that in a good way). The special effects become monotonous and unappealing very quickly (more particularly in the character of Ghost Rider) , and not even Neveldine/Taylor’s directing could help change that. The story runs out of gas after the first couple of action sequences, and the minor characters are uninteresting to say the least. Not even Christopher Lambert, a.k.a. Connor McLeod from “Highlander” and Raiden from “Mortal Kombat” (the GREATEST VIDEO-GAME MOVIE EVER MADE), failed to interest me. The one exception would have to be Idris Elba, who somehow manages to steal the show from Nicolas Cage. And speaking of the devil himself, Nick delivers a superbly LAME performance as Johnny Blaze. Similar to Samuel L. Jackson, Nick plays himself – bored, tired, bitchy at unexpected moments, and unfunny. Not even telling yourself that Nick won a fucking Academy Award for Best Actor in 1996 will help you when you see his performance in this film. Had my expectations been too high for this film, I would have bashed the hell out of “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” even further. But as I said before, I knew it would suck. In my honest opinion, I expected it to be a lot worse. But it is what it is. A bad movie. Nothing more, nothing less.
SHOULD I SEE THIS FILM? Skip this shit. If you’re an Idris Elba fan, go watch “The Wire”. It’s still the greatest TV show ever! If you’re a Christopher Lambert fan, go watch “Highlander” or “Mortal Kombat”. If you’re a Nicolas Cage fan, go watch any one of his better films. If you’re a “Ghost Rider” fan (for some Godforsaken reason), stick with the original. Besides, Eva Mendes is in it ;D
MY RATING – 1 out of 5 stars (“Of course it sucked!”)