Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011) / Action-Horror

MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, and language
Length: 95 min.

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido, Fergus Riordan, Ciaran Hinds, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Screenplay: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman, David S. Goyer
Review published February 16, 2013

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 2011Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who directed together on the modestly successful action flicks, Crank (as well as its sequel) and Gamer, probably could have used an adrenaline shot of their own in this exceedingly vapid and ugly sequel.  It is a follow-up (of sorts) to the 2007 film, Ghost Rider, though outside of a returning Nicolas Cage (Trespass, Season of the Witch) and a few details regarding his motorcycle daredevil origin and his signing with the devil, becoming the host body for a demonic spirit (well, in this movie, it is a little angelic) of vengeance, very little of the first film is carried over.

In this film, Johnny Blaze (Cage) gets involved in trying to keep the Devil, who walks among us in the body of a man named Roarke (Hinds, Deathly Hallows Pt. 2), from moving his essence from his current mortal host into the body of a ten-year-old boy named Danny (Riordan, Fragile), bringing about the foretold prophecy regarding the coming evil apocalypse (or some mumbo jumbo to this effect).  Idris Elba (Thor, Obsessed) plays a French monk named Moreau who has been busy trying to secure him that sheds light on the prophecy, and who informs Blaze that helping in this cause will likely lead to a way to shed himself of his afflicted curse.  Violante Placido (The American, The Lookout) plays the boy's mother, Nadya, out to protect the lad at all costs, while Johnny Whitworth (Limitless, 3:10 to Yuma) plays the leader of the gang of kidnappers, who later is infused with powers by the Devil to decay all living matter to dust.

Outside of some fairly decent special effects shots and some good use of cinematography around various parts of Eastern Europe, perhaps the only appeal of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance comes from yet another vastly over-the-top performance of Nicolas Cage, who surely must know that he has garnered many new fans who wait for moments when he comes unhinged, making wild-eyed expressions and emoting in the hammiest of possible ways as he tries to keep the demon within from coming out.  There are also some nice-looking comic book-style animated sequences, told with a Cage voice-over, that tell us more of the narrative in flash-back mode (probably a cost-cutting measure for this relatively low budget production).

The only thing that saves the film from the abyss of eternal hellfire (aka, the dreaded one-star rating) is that there is a sense of humor about itself that emerges every so often, though not often enough such that when they do occur they don't seem a tad out of place.  One such moment is a montage of the Devil's former hosts and how he has manipulated them, including such historical figures as Stalin and Idi Amin, only to be capped off by the punch-line of him also being Jerry Springer.  Or another scene, when 'Decay' is trying to eat food that keeps decaying before he can get it in his mouth, but manages to do so when he picks up a Twinkie (the plastic wrapper is left on it, leaving it ambiguous whether Twinkies ever do go bad).  And, in case you're wondering, yes, Blaze's demonic alter ego does indeed 'piss fire'.

The few other instances in which the film does seem to show a bit of a pulse comes when Blaze is overtaken by his Ghost Rider alter ego and we watch the fiery, leather-clad skeleton open up the proverbial can of whoop-ass on a much-deserving collection of bad guys.  The effects do carry a nifty appeal, though it must be said that the 'death stare' employed by G.R., in which he feeds off of evil men's souls by staring them in the face, is not only over used in this film, but also takes far too long.  I guess PG-13 status means that we're going to get a kinder, gentler way of dispatching no-name thugs.

As for the rest, it is quite boring, predictable and full of straight-up awful cardboard characterizations and dialogue not even worthy of lifting from the word bubbles of the comic books they are inspired by.  2007's Ghost Rider had already set quite a low bar in terms of quality such that any sequel should have a good chance to surpass it, especially one which would go a different direction with the material.  Spirit of Vengeance certainly does take things where you'd never have expected they'd go, but nearly all of these detours prove to be for the worse.  Just as any deal you might sign withe the devil, signing on to a viewing of this terrible sequel could fill you with a lifetime full of remorse.
Qwipster's rating:  

©2013 Vince Leo