Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – 2012

Directed by Neveldine/Taylor
Starring Nicolas Cage, Idiris Elba, Ciarán Hinds, Johnny Whitworth, Violante Placido, Christopher Lambert, Fergus Riordan
Screenplay by David S. Goyer, Scott Gimple, Seth Hoffman

Every time I ever think of the Ghost Rider movies, one of the first things that arrives to my conscious is the song by the group, Suicide, covered by R.E.M. as a B-side on the Green album.  Let’s listen to is now to set the mood.

If that doesn’t make you want to see the movie, this review won’t help much.  This is a perfect example of a movie where much of the budget is saved by filming in an Eastern bloc (mostly Romania and Turkey) country where the rules are a little more lax and the country will give you what you want just to get some of that Hollywood glitter.

The plot involves our nice guy evil hero, Johnny Blaze recruited to save a kid, let’s call him Danny Omen.  Danny is Satan’s (played with typical smirking by Hinds) kid born to a young woman who, like Johnny, came upon the devil during a weak point on a bad day.  They guy doing the recruiting, Moreau, is played by Elba, with one of the worst French accents in recent memory.  Being that he was born in England, you would think he could have been in the ballpark.

Deals are made and forgotten.  Deals are made and kept.  The second banana (Whitworth) outlasts death in every fight until, you guessed it, the second to last fight.  Each chase scene and standoff, meant to kill extra henchmen in astounding ways, succeeds in wasting time until they get to the end.  They even come across and wasted the minimal talent (yes, that’s singular) of Christopher Lambert, who it is said, practiced his swordplay for three months and shaved his head, just so he could last, oh, about 3 minutes on-screen.  I won’t tell you if he puts the sword to good use.

Cage, with his natural Velveeta-like charisma, saunters around with a wig on, makes some interesting (and many more uninteresting) comments and facial expressions.  This movie, like most of his career, is a sleepwalk for him.  None of the others make any sort of impression in the slightest.

As for the directors, these two have made a career of cinematic refuse like Gamer, Jonah Hex and the Crank films.  The pace is clunky, but the real reason we are here, special effects, works well enough.  You can get those almost anywhere now.  Of their previous work, I found the public sex between Statham in Smart in the original Crank a low point.  Nothing here approaches that stroke of genius.

The biggest mystery of this film is the involvement, nay the career of David S. Goyer.  Nothing I can say would tell the story as well as just a list of the films he’s had a hand in writing:

Death Warrant (1990)
Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)
Demonic Toys (1992)
Arcade (1993)
Dollman vs. Demonic Toys (1993)
The Puppet Masters (1994)
The Crow: City of Angels (1996)
Dark City (1998)
Blade (1998)
ZigZag (2002)
Blade II (2002)
Blade: Trinity (2004)
Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys (2004)
Batman Begins (2005)
Jumper (2008)
The Dark Knight (2008) story
The Unborn (2009)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012) story
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) story
Man of Steel (2013)

A track record of greatness, a track record of crap.  Oh, and let’s not forget the opus Nick Fury: Agent of Shield, starring Hasslehoff.  My biggest question is how did he get this movie to suck in such a similar way to the original when it was one movie he did not have a hand in writing.

(** out *****)

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