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How Hellish is “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”?

February 17, 2012

Give Nicolas Cage credit for this: He’s in on the joke. He proved that during his recent self-deprecating appearance on SNL, getting “In the Cage” with Andy Samberg (as Nicolas Cage) and acknowledging the essential qualities of his movies, including 1) every line must be whispered or screamed and 2) everything’s on fire. That pretty much sums up Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the sequel to his surprise 2007 hit, and given those limitations, it’s not half damn bad.

Mind you, it doesn’t achieve the manic brilliance of Cage’s Drive Angry 3D, but Ghost Rider‘s more family-friendly PG-13 rating keeps it from diving headlong into the fire. This time, Cage’s Johnny Blaze, aka Satan’s bounty hunter, is on the trail of a boy whose father is the devil (although this time he’s embodied by Ciarán Hinds instead of Peter Fonda, thus breaking the Easy RiderGhost Rider chain) and whose mother is a gypsy hottie (The American‘s voluptuous Violante Placido).

An alcoholic French priest, played by The Wire‘s Idris Elba, swears that if Johnny can rescue the boy, his deal with the devil will be rendered null and void and his soul can be restored. The rest of the movie is pretty much one long chase/fight sequence, but it’s directed by flair by Neveldine/Taylor, the duo behind Jason Statham’s crazy Crank flicks. And the script throws in enough clever bits—including a reference to Placido’s character as “Satan’s baby mama” and the suggestion that Jerry Springer might in fact be the devil—that you’re willing to go along for the ride.

Do I wish Cage would stop making these silly thrillers and get back to real acting, like he used to do in his Leaving Las Vegas days? Yes, and maybe he will with the upcoming satirical Hollywood musical Frank or Francis, which reunites him with Adaptation writer Charlie Kaufman. In the meantime, you could do worse than this hell-on-wheels joyride.

Are you still willing to “Get in the Cage” with Nic? Post a comment, dammit!

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