When attempting to review the second attempt to slap the skull-faced Spirit Of Vengeance into a second attempt at cinematic glory, a few things become readily apparent:
1. Quite a few things are vastly superior to Mark Steven Johnson’s lightly bland original movie.
2. Quite a few things are vastly inferior to Mark Steven Johnson’s lightly bland original movie.
3. Both points 1) and 2) manage to cancel each other out entirely making the whole endeavor somewhat pointless.
Anyway, in an attempt to be vaguely professional, here comes a review anyway…
Johnny Blaze, the once renowned and world famous stunt man who somehow managed to be a household name for jumping over shit with bikes (what is this, the 70’s?) is still carrying the weight of selling his soul to the devil. Travelling aimlessly across eastern Europe for no better reason than it’s cheaper to film there, Blaze gets caught up in the messy adventures of the Ketch family. Single parent and former merc Nadya made a deal with the devil to save her life and thus impregnated her with Danny, who at a certain age will become the demon’s new earthly host. To avoid this they are on the run but persuaded by Nadya’s ex and fellow mercenary, Carrigan (definitely a future episode of Dr. Phil for the ages) but have an avenging angel in Moreau, a French, wine obsessed, biker, monk (Idris Elba having a ball, beating his Gaelic accent into unmerciful submission) who enlists Johnny to his cause.
As Johnny bonds with the family while simultaneously struggling to control the notoriously strict Ghost Rider (regardless whether you’ve either murdered or avoided paying taxes, a sin is a sin and he’ll fucking kill the shit out of you for it), the devil steps up his supernatural arms race and transforms a critically wounded Carrigan into Blackout, an albino ghoul who can cause severe necrosis with merely a touch, and the chase is on with the very soul of young Danny as forfeit.
If you spotted more than one thing that stood out as distinctly odd about the above play by play (“French, wine obsessed, biker, monk” should’ve stuck out a mile) then welcome to another attempt from Crank directors Neveldine/Taylor to cram their hyperactive, smash mouth style into another eccentric hit and miss movie. Watch as they try and bend their usual pounding style of graphic sex and violence ineffectually around a greatly reduced rating which excels at being divertingly weird while barely holding interest.
As the film unleashes it’s particular brand of quirkiness, which encompasses everything from Blackout discovering his rotting powers have no effect on Twinkies to the Ghost Rider pissing napalm, it never truly rates higher than just merely being “cool”, even when the Rider infuses other vehicles with the power to be supernaturally badass. Although the upgrade in CGI flames gives the character’s signature look a gritty overhaul with his skull-fire having a diesel style smoke to it as his jacket bubbles with the heat.
But the best thing about the movie is that it leaves far more room for it’s star to turn in the kind of bug-eyed shrieking that most people think of when they picture a Nic Cage performance these days. Relatively buttoned down in the original film (for him, I mean), here Nic descends into textbook Cage-Mania while sporting an aggressively hideous hair piece looks like it was dug up from a pet cemetery. Not only is his “SCRATCHING AT THE DOOOOOOOR!!!” scene vintage batshit, but this time round he actually gets to portray the Ghost Rider too, swaying like a cobra before screaming directly into people’s faces with his CGI head. Behind the scenes footage of him on set getting into character by painting his face white and sporting entirely black contact lenses make you genuinely wish somehow it could have found it’s way into the film, but never mind, eh?
Despite all the crazy, the film remains on a steady track of eliciting a constant “not bad I suppose” reaction, be it a zippy but standard climactic chase, or another installment at Nic Cage Bellows At His Surroundings and ultimately the film, like the orginal, fails to accomplish much more than just being a string of some relatively cool visuals.
Maybe a more adult rating and less restrictions on the filmmakers might have given the hellish fan favorite the gear shift he needed to produce a truly memorable white knuckle ride but as it stands Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance may ride hard on the throttle, but that doesn’t mean very much if the brake is still on.