Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Movie Information

The Story: Johnny Blaze -- aka Ghost Rider -- gets on his flaming motorcycle to save the Son of Satan from being used by his evil dad to become a kind of demigod demon. The Lowdown: Willfully absurd and deliberately trashy -- and with Nicolas Cage in full overacting mode -- it works OK as crass pop fun, as long as you take it on those terms.
Genre: Horror Action
Director: Neveldine/Taylor (Crank)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Fergus Riordan, Christopher Lambert
Rated: PG-13

Yeah, it’s kinda dumb, totally screwy and in as dubious taste as a PG-13 rating will allow. What did you expect Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance to be? As I pointed out when the first movie came out, this is about a guy who turns into a flaming skeleton and rides around dispensing justice on a demonic motorcycle. Knowing that, why in the name of Roger Corman would you expect anything but pulpy nonsense? This is a movie with Ciarán Hinds as the devil, Idris Elba as a hard-drinking holy man, Christopher Lambert as a heavily tattooed monk, and with a skull-faced hero who pees fire. That the hero is played by Nicolas Cage at his Cagey-ist and was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (or Neveldine/Taylor as they sign themselves) should tell the rest of the story. It was exactly what I expected it to be, and I was fine with that.

Of course, it’s managed to piss off the comic book contingent by not being faithful to the comic book (I couldn’t say) and the more “serious-minded” critics who take obvious and deliberate trash a little too seriously. I don’t really care. I had a good time with its nonsense—especially when Cage sometimes edged toward his The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans level of nutso. Neveldine/Taylor—whose speciality is over-the-top bad-taste trash like the Crank movies—are a little restrained by both the PG-13 rating and ambitions that exceed their budget, but they bring as much cheeky cleverness as they can to the party. I will say, however, that their eye for 3D composition appears to be less artful than that displayed by Patrick Lussier in Cage’s Drive Angry from last year. (In other words, if you see this, see it in 2D.)

The film’s story is admirably simple and straightforward. The devil—or Roarke, if you will—made a deal a few years back to save Nadya (Violante Placido, The American) if she’d play Rosemary for him and produce a son. Said son, Danny (Fergus Riordan), is now approaching that awkward age when old Scratch can make use of his unholy issue. Some monks are trying to protect the kid till that time is past. But this doesn’t go so well, so Nadya goes on the run with Danny—and with villains in Roarke’s employ in pursuit, of course. Heading up the campaign to save the Son O’ Satan is Moreau (Idris Elba), a dipsomaniacal monk who enlists the aid of our hero, who—for purposes of personal isolation and well-known low film-production costs—is hiding out in Eastern Europe. Of course, he doesn’t want to play Ghost Rider for this or any other purpose, but he does because Moreau promises to remove his curse afterwards. (And, well, frankly, there’d be no movie otherwise.)

Naturally, the safe haven turns out not to be such a swell idea in terms of safety—one look at Christopher Lambert’s Methodius tells you that—and much mayhem ensues. A lot of this mayhem is courtesy of Satan’s minion Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth (TV’s CSI: Miami), who the Prince of Darkness has brought back to life while making him look like Edgar Winter in the bargain (deals with the Devil always have a catch). In addition to being reanimated, Carrigan has been given the “touch of decay,” which makes for a nifty, though illogically applied, effect. (If he causes anything to decompose by touching it—except for a famous snack food—why doesn’t the steering wheel of his vehicle crumble to dust?) This all ends up in a ruined amphitheater where it looks like they’re going to stage the last number of Jesus Christ Superstar. (A production number at this point would have been pretty cool, come to think of it).

Is it any good? Well, not in any truly meaningful sense, I don’t suppose it is. The bigger question with junk like this is whether it’s entertaining, knows what it is and isn’t bloated out of all reason. (Yes, I am thinking of you, Michael Bay). In that regard, I’d say it succeeds admirably—assuming you’re in the market for this brand of claptrap. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language.


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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