Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance isn’t a good movie. It’s an adaptation of a third-string Marvel character following a dull-as-dishwater origin story from Mark Steven Johnson. Spirit of Vengeance has two things going right for it, though: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, directors of the stupid-action masterpieces that are the Crank films. Seriously, those two movies are possibly some of the greatest action movies of all time, and they are utterly, utterly moronic in basically every way, but damn are they cool.

Is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance that stupid-cool? Sadly, no. However, it’s still a hell* of a good time, if you’re in the mind to enjoy it. Also, you’re in for some positively classic Nic Cage ACTINGGGG, so if you’re as big a fan of that as I am, strap in.


Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Director: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: February 17, 2012

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is Ghost Rider, cursed to roam the lands and take vengeance on evil doers. Doesn’t it suck when you’re stuck with a job you’re not passionate about? In Eastern Europe, for reasons that are mostly budget related, Blaze roams around, trying to outrun the curse inside him. He’s tracked down by Moreau, a drunk French priest played with aplomb by Idris Elba, and given a way out of his curse, so long as he saves a boy (Fergus Riordan) from forces that would capture. Those forces, by the way, are The Devil (Ciarán Hinds), and the boy is Old Scratch’s son. Yeah. There’s a dude that has the power to decay everything he touches. Insert Ghost Rider royally fucking up some dudes, continue for ninety minutes, and roll credits.

Like I said earlier, this isn’t a good movie. The characters are pretty one-note, the dialogue is questionable when it’s not hilariously, intentionally campy and cheesy, and the story’s got more silly holes than a clown after a firing squad. While I’m still waiting for a Ghost Rider movie to be done with the care and the brains that the first Iron Man had, because I think that pictures like that are possible for all of these comic book properties. Until then, we’re consigned to a very, very stupid place. Neveldine/Taylor understand that. They are, after all, not men known for making movies of subtlety or narrative grace. These are men that make awesome, stupid things, and Spirit of Vengeance has an abundance of both of those in the best way.

Neveldine/Taylor have a talent for shooting crazy, kinetic action that sets them apart from most other action directors. They like things messy and wacky, and Spirit of Vengeance has its share of messy, crazy stunts. My favorite, briefly showcased in the trailer, features a giant earth-mover, transformed to hellfire thanks to the power of the Rider, just wrecking shit. Tearing huge gores into the earth, burning everything like the world’s made of dry twigs. It’s just cool, and it’s all shot with the hyper-kinetic, near-ADD level of craziness Neveldine/Taylor bring to their work.

The real star of the show, obviously, is Nicolas Cage. At this point in his career, he’s either flat boring or OH GOD NOT THE BEES, and I can happily report that this performance is probably his craziest since Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans. As Johnny Blaze, he tweaks with the sort of insane energy we’ve grown to love the man for. This is the Vampire’s Kiss Nic Cage, the Face/Off Cage. The one that will just do things and let whatever stick to the wall. As the Rider, he moves with this weird, almost reptilian gait, more snake than demon hellbeast, to be expected considering the way he channeled voodoo spirit Baron Samedi while on set as the Rider. It’s Nicolas Cage unleashed, and it turns out he’s the perfect fit for a Neveldine/Taylor movie. I can only hope Cage can procure a role in Crank 3, whenever it comes.

Since it’s not a terribly good movie, I can’t give Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance a high score. It doesn’t deserve it. However, that doesn’t stop the fact that it’s a damn entertaining movie, chock full of crazy moments and featuring a high-octane Nicolas Cage performance. It’s perfect midnight movie fodder, something to get drunk with friends and watch on the couch. If you go into this movie in the right frame of mind, expecting  solid dumb fun, you’ll dig it. My biggest disappointment is that I’d have loved to see Neveldine/Taylor with the freedom to make a hard-R rated Ghost Rider. That would have been some kind of sight to see.

(Note: I did not see the movie in 3D, as it was post-converted and not actually shot in 3D, so I’d suggest you do the same.)