‘Ghost Rider’ sequel crashes and burns

Article Published: Feb. 23, 2012 | Modified: Feb. 23, 2012
‘Ghost Rider’ sequel crashes and burns

Nicolas Cage (kind of) stars in ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.’

Nicolas Cage is not a bad actor.

Sure, he has an inherent craziness that’s played up for his more outlandish roles. Yes, he goes on obscenely lavish shopping sprees, picking up castles, dinosaur skulls and even a pet octopus in the process.

His most ambitious role is himself, and it’s a role he’s perfected.

Playing crazy doesn’t seem too far of a stretch, but the difference between method crazy and sloppy crazy is all too distinguishable. His winning performances in “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Adaptation.” and Werner Herzog’s take on “Bad Lieutenant” are mesmerizing, establishing Cage as a solid and talented performer.

But in films like “Ghost Rider,” based on the Marvel Comics title of the same name, and its unfortunate sequel, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” Cage phones in the crazy like a Miss Cleo hotline. It’s all half-assed, right down to shoddy post-production 3-D, and made only to ride the leathery coattails of the original’s moderate box-office success.

“Spirit of Vengeance” plays like a paltry SyFy Channel original, only with better special effects and Nicolas Cage. It’s utterly devoid of substance, a hollow shell of a movie, bolstered by a heavily touted dream sequence of our hero pissing fire.

Co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (“Crank”) are obviously trying for an intentionally campy cult classic, gleefully over the top and unabashedly absurd. It’s over the top, sure, but painfully short on glee. It is, however, unabashedly absurd.

“Spirit of Vengeance” comes across as a poor man’s “Drive Angry,” which was more entertaining than it had any right to be, but contained an essential element – fun. This latest “Rider” seems as if everyone involved is just going through an odd set of motions that’s supposed to be fun but isn’t, like some corporate team building exercise.

Cage reprises the role of Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman who sold his soul to the devil and is now possessed by a demonic spirit, best described as the devil’s bounty hunter, as it’s tasked with seeking out and punishing the wicked.

This means that when evil’s about, Blaze is transformed into a flaming (no, not that way), leather-clad skeleton – called the Ghost Rider – that rides a fiery motorcycle and wields red-hot chains used to incinerate foes.

Laying low in Eastern Europe, Blaze tries his best to keep the Rider contained. But when a monk or something named Moreau (Idris Elba, “Thor”) seeks him out, Blaze learns that he must somehow use the Rider for good – in this case, protecting a child, Danny (Fergus Riordan, “Fragile”), who just might be the spawn of Satan (Ciaran Hinds, HBO’s “Rome”), who’s adopted the more media friendly name of Roarke.

His human form growing old and frail, Roarke wants to inhabit a new body, namely Danny’s. Moreau promises Blaze that in saving the boy from eternal damnation, he can rid himself of the Rider’s curse and return to, uh, normalcy.

“Spirit of Vengeance” doesn’t offer a very compelling story, serving more as a vehicle for computer-generated fighting and by-the-book Nic Cage madness, both of which come across as sub-par.

The Rider sequences are poorly choreographed and anticlimactic, and the characters are thinner than the plot, leaving viewers with nothing whatsoever to care about, except, perhaps a swift ending.

Fortunately, the film moves at a brisk pace, queuing up the action from the very get-go and only letting up briefly to introduce its bare-minimum plot points. At a 95-minute runtime, “Spirit of Vengeance” seems surprisingly shorter than it actually is, which is somewhat puzzling (but quite welcome), as it’s just plain boring. It’s a forgettable affair, and maybe that’s to blame.
Now, what was I talking about?

“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images and language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 22 or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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