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Flame Out: Laziness knocks all the fire out of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 

Nicholas Cage stars in the second Ghost Rider, Spirit of Vengeance.

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Just as in his last ghostly outing, Drive Angry, Nicholas Cage tries to ruin this movie every step of the way, but this time he has help. His mundane take is surpassed by the dismal directing of two hitherto innovative filmmakers, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who drop the fiery ball big time. The fun that is supposed to be had in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is lost entirely. This flick aims to dazzle, yet sadly, it flat-out sucks.

The plot tries to stay true to Marvel Comics' original idea with its various takes on Ghost Rider's origin. Johnny Blaze (Cage) is hiding out in Eastern Europe, when called upon by a wine-guzzling priest (Idris Elba) who wants to stop Satan from taking human form as a boy. Forget about my theory that all haunted house movies suck, my new theory is anything with a boy in it sucks. Cage rampages hither and yon on his lame quest to find the boy and fight evildoers in an attempt to lift his own demonic curse.


Everyone is basically stuck in an overdone, highly unoriginal race against a satanic doomsday clock. This hackneyed plot steals from The Fury and The Omen. I should've known it would be bad since David S. Goyer wrote the story and is responsible for three movies I found repellent: Jumper, The Unborn, and The Dark Knight.

Cage's narration is somewhat peppy for his usual hangdog monosyllabic babble and his acting is a baby step above his usual posing. Still, he spends way too much time on screen without Ghost Rider's trademark touch, a head that's ablaze with hell fire. Instead, he lumbers around in his '70s Elvis leather duds like he has a red-hot poker up his ass. Elba has fun with his rambunctious priest performance, but Johnny Whitworth has the best time as sadistic Ray Carrigan who has the power to make things decay, reducing people to Stove Top stuffing mix. A gratuitous Christopher Lambert gives the best, and shortest, performance of his career as an evil priest/monk with graffiti tattooed on his face, but Violante Placido does nothing sexy or "actiony" enough to please anyone.

Speaking of heads on fire, there is way too much fiery skull screaming while all action stagnates. The first fight scene, a fiery and undecipherable battle, is a glimpse of things to come. The PG-13 rating works against the subject matter. Every time tension builds and it looks like heads will explode, it's either done off screen or from far away.

Let's blame the directors. Responsible for Crank and Crank 2, these guys have made some of the most pleasing eye candy action flicks ever to hit the big screen. Even Gamer was a fun-packed adventure and sociological skewer of the media. But Neveldine and Taylor are just plain lazy here. This is definitely like a bad Jonah Hex hangover (a flick they started and walked away from). On the upside, this movie will please the 12-year-old-male demographic.

Sadly, the filmmakers miss just about every chance to use the 3D technology to effect. Every opportunity for shit to fly at your head is squandered by tepid animated sequences. There's more energy packed in five minutes of Crank than this entire movie. My expectations were high from a special preview wherein I saw director Taylor being pulled by a strap on rollerblades to get some wildly cool shots that must've hit the editing floor.

The directing team pulls out some tricks from their repertoire but not enough to redeem this uninspired flick. The fiery motorcycle looks cool yet the Mad Max/Road Warrior ending is cut short. You would think the ending credits would be fun to watch, but even they are lackluster. After the smoke clears, we're stuck with no real pay off - a waste of time and, even worse, memory. One thing is clear: this is one franchise that's ready to be extinguished. Oh well, ashes to ashes.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

1 Star

Starring Nicholas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Johnny Whitworth

Directed by Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor

Rated PG-13

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