Nobody could ever really accuse 2007′s Ghost Rider of being a great film, but at least it’s biggest crime was just mediocrity. It had a few good ideas and themes, but was ultimately hamstrung by some script and directorial missteps.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance doesn’t misstep. No, it drunkenly careens down a trash filled hallway with its ass hanging out, shouting unintelligible obscenities and puking on anybody who even just looks it’s way before slumping into a drunken stupour in the corner, content to sleep in it’s own filth.
This time around we find Nicholas Cage’s Johnny Blaze hiding out in Eastern Europe, barely keeping his Ghost Rider side in check, when he runs into Idris Elba’s Moreau, a cat-eyed French priest of sorts, with an accent straight out of an episode of ‘Alo ‘Alo, who needs Blaze to track down and protect a young boy, Danny Ketch (Fergus Riordan), whom the devil himself (Ciaran Hinds) is after so that he can make the boy his next vessel on earth. Also after the boy is part time gun-runner, full time douche and soon to be superpowered villain, Carrigan aka Blackout (Johnny Whitworth), who happens to have a history with the boy’s mother.
Inexplicable edits and jumpy cinematography abound, and yet for all its frenetic filmmaking, they still somehow manage to make a film that just flatlines the entire way through. There’s no noticeable increase or decrease in pace, it’s all just one gear and that gear is “stupid”. This is due to the fact that Taylor and Neveldine have absolutely no idea of how to piece scenes together into a coherent whole. You just flit from one toothless scene to the next like you’re watching the world’s worst Powerpoint presentation instead of a fully structured film.
Oh and if you’ve watched the trailer you have literally seen pretty much every single action sequence that the film has to offer, including the “bored me to tears” final boss fight.
Not helping matters is that “Ridiculous” Cage attacks this script like he’s just seen those “Nicholas Cage losing his shit” videos on the internet and taken them as a personal challenge to see how far he can push the audience before we just punch him in the mouth and walk away. There is an interrogation scene where the only coercion method being employed to extract information is actually Nicholas Cage losing his shit! And trust me, two minutes into it and I was ready to spill the beans on my deepest, darkest secrets, just to cut off his shrilling voice. And don’t get me started on the inexplicably long transformation scene, which I expect had parody video creators just wringing their hands in glee.
Now in the original film, despite its shortcomings, at least it had the innate badassness of the Ghost Rider to fall back on. Unfortunately, the Cagification carries through to when Blaze adopts the Rider persona now. This new version is not so much a supernatural Terminator with a flaming skull, as it is a mysteriously herky jerky automaton, that apparently has an LSD influenced Michael J. Fox at the operating controls. The character twitches and jerks all over the place, in between either just staring at people for long periods of time for no apparent reason (last time I checked, the Penance Stare was actually supposed to do something), or inexplicably rotating slowly in mid-air on its back, limbs akimbo, in the middle of a gun fight. Seriously.
And while I expected the bulk of the characters to have less meat to them than Angelina Jolie’s ankles, I was at least hoping that the exception would be the Devil himself. Unfortunately, the usually reliable Ciaran Hinds uncharacteristically gives us such a boring and instantly forgettable performance, that he comes across more like a Wall Street banker with an ulcer than the Prince of Darkness.
The only positive point I took out of my entire experience of this film, was that Neveldine and Taylor have certainly nailed the visual aspect of the Rider himself. His new charred-leather garbed form astride his monstrous motorcycle, hellfire imbued chains whipping about, is pitch perfect. But don’t be fooled though, these attractive visuals are nothing but the invitation for you to step through the door, so that a bucket filled with cocktail of Taylor, Neveldine and Cage’s excrement can come crashing down on your head. I’m not falling for that gag.