Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor (2011)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds, Johnny Whitworth
Find it: IMDB

Of all the ways 2007's Ghost Rider managed to disappoint, it was in casting Nicolas Cage as a man whose head caught fire all the time that was the biggest disappointment of all. Not because Cage is an inherently bad Johnny Blaze (although he probably is) but mostly because not once did Ghost Rider realise the potential of Nic Cage playing a character whose head catches fire all the time. In Spirit Of Vengeance, not only does Nicolas Cage's head catch fire all the time, but sometimes he shouts things too. HE'S SCRATCHING AT THE DOOR, hothead Cage yells, channelling a spirit not seen since NOT THE BEES or that one movie where he threatens to shoot an old lady for eyeballing his Iguana.

Spirit Of Vengeance is directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who brought us two of my favourite action movies of recent years - the mental Crank films. Spirit Of Vengeance never approaches the craziness of that Statham silliness, but it does have Ghost Rider using his flaming urine as a flamethrower and vomiting hot bullets into an enemy's face.

Set in Eastern Europe, this sort-of-sequel sees Nicolas Cage attempting to hold back the demons within when he is approached by Moreau (Elba) with a tempting proposition: in exchange for finding and protecting a magical macguffin child, he will exorcise Blaze's inner demon. However, the boy is only the bloody antichrist (maybe) and is also pursued by the devil (wearing Ciaran Hinds's body) and an angry gangster with all the powers of 2000ad's Judge Mortis. Not advertised: Giles from Buffy, Idris Elba's atrocious and occasional Irish accent, and Christopher Lambert (!) with scribbles on his face. I was inordinately excited at seeing Christopher Lambert return to the big screen, because Christopher Lambert is awesome.

It's probably good that I'm no Ghost Rider fan, since this film doesn't take the character remotely seriously. Nicolas Cage is essentially playing mad Nicolas Cage - complete with inappropriate screaming, weird bodily tics and terrible hair. As Ghost Rider, the CGI is awful (his flaming head doesn't seem to be connected to his body) but the action scenes have a wonderful punky vibe to them. The extra violence adds an element sorely missing from the previous film, as does all the screaming heavy metal and Nicolas Cage's constant gurning (depending on one's tolerance for Nicolas Cage screaming and gurning). The presence of Idris Elba and Ciaran Hinds should make Spirit Of Vengeance seem classy and worthy, but they actually have the opposite effect.

It's similar in tone and style to Cage's Drive Angry, but somehow less fun. Ghost Rider himself isn't in the film enough (is there a rule that all superhero sequels should have the hero quit at some point?) and the story is utter tosh. Still, it does have Nicolas Cage doing what he does best:

Pulling that face.

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