Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Movie Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance * ½
Directed by: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor.
Written by: Scott M. Gimple & Seth Hoffman and David S. Goyer.
Starring: Nicolas Cage (Johnny Blaze / Ghost Rider), Violante Placido(Nadya), Ciarán Hinds (Roarke), Idris Elba (Moreau), Johnny Whitworth (Ray Carrigan), Fergus Riordan (Danny).

I am a Nicolas Cage fan, even though I have to admit that he makes far more awful movies than good ones. I remember a piece written by NYT Film Critic Manhola Dargis a few years ago, on the heels of Cage`s brilliant performance in Werner Herzog`s Bad Lieutenant::: Port of Call, New Orleans, where she essentially compared Cage to George Clooney – and said she preferred Cage. True, as she stated, Clooney is one of the most consistent actors out there right now – you can almost guarantee that anything Clooney is in is at least good, if not great. But Clooney could never do what Nicolas Cage does when Cage gets the right role. The problem is that Cage doesn’t get the right role very often, and yet he insists on making numerous movies every year. In 2011, he made three films – including Trespass and Season of the Witch, which both made my bottom 10 list of the year, alongside Drive Angry, which was one of my favorite guilty pleasures. When Cage is on – like in Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Lord of War, The Weatherman, Face/Off and the aforementioned Bad Lieutenant there are few actors better than Nicolas Cage – and not only that, you cannot imagine another actor in their roles. But sweet Jesus, when Cage is in a bad movie, he can be absolutely God Awful. He throws himself full tilt into every role, even the ones he shouldn’t.

All of which brings me to Cages most recent film, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The first Ghost Rider was silly and ridiculous in the extreme, and wasn’t very good, but was at least an interesting time waster, the sequel isn’t even that. Cage is once again Johnny Blaze, who made a deal with the Devil for his father’s life, and now transforms into the Ghost Rider, a demon who devours the wicked souls of the world. After the first movie, Johnny has decided to hide out in a bombed out town in Eastern Europe and control his curse. That is when Moreau (Idris Elba) shows up with an offer – there is a young boy, Danny (Fergus Riordan), who for some reason is about to become the anti-Christ because of a prophecy, unless Moreau and his ancient religious group, can protect him. Unfortunately the kid has fallen into the hands of Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), an ex of Dannys mother Nadya (Violante Placido), who has been hired by Satan (Ciaran Hinds), to bring him the child. If Johnny will use the Riders powers to track down the kid and help protect him, then somehow Moreaus group will help life Johnny curse.

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who are without a doubt the worst directing duo out there right now. Their two Crank films were two of the absolute worst films of the last decade, and whose Gamer was forgettable other than a strange dance sequence with Michael C. Hall. They seem to want to be the next Michael Bay, but no matter how bad Michael Bay can be, he has never approached the type of ineptitude on display in Neveldine and Taylors films. Here, not only do the use the Bay-esque shaky camera and rapid fire editing, but they go so far over the top with some of their stylistics that you cannot help but role your eyes.

I find it hard to criticize a movie about a guy with a flaming skill sucking the souls out of people as a having a preposterous, because really, even a good movie with this basic outline would be preposterous. And yet, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance does this one worse – its plot is boring and not very well thought out. If you’re going to make an over the top comic book, than fully embrace that, and this movie never really does that. The characters, outside of Cage, are never really thought through or interesting in the least – even though they cast some good actors in the roles. But why cast Ciaran Hinds, who could play Satan with delicious glee or menace, and make him so damn boring. It makes no sense.

As for Cage himself, he does what he always does, which is go way over the top, and embrace the loony, zany dialogue he is given. Cage has no off switch, and even in a horrible movie like this, he really does seem to be given it his all. Yes, he is awful, but how could he have played this role any better. It is an impossible role. Cage has a unique gift but far too often, he puts it to use in horrible films. If he was more selective in his roles, his reputation would be much, much better.

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