Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Nicolas Cage tweaks out good, but Spirit of Vengeance still manages to disappoint.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I don’t usually ever qualify my love of Nicolas Cage, but there’s the Neveldine/Taylor factor to consider here. I loved watching Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance but that’s not an enjoyment level that most audiences will want. It doesn’t work on the level of “good storytelling” or “production value,” but rather as a student film that a few A-listers decided to do to help out some kids.

That alone would be awesome, the thing is Neveldine and Taylor are not film students. This is their fourth film and it is the lowest quality that they have ever achieved, or intended not to achieve, whatever their motivation was. I love the insanity of Crank, the meta of Gamer and I think it’s amazing that Crank: High Voltage even exists. So I’m not a hater, but with their chance to step up to the big leagues, they didn’t really Crank up the studio comic book movie.

The behind the scenes footage of Neveldine and Taylor hanging from wires with a camera is thrilling. The actual shot that produced in the movie looks bland. Plus, it’s shot and set in Eastern Europe to save money, so you can tell every location is a factory or rock quarry and it looks like a straight to video movie. I do welcome the prospect of Cage acting up a storm with no restrictions in DTV, but Spirit of Vengeance is not that loose. And it’s all gray. Even lifting the 3D glasses up doesn’t brighten the dreary locations.

This is pretty monumental actually: a DTV-esque hardcore R-rated freak out sequel to a mainstream Hollywood comic book movie. It’s not even the same Johnny Blaze. This Blaze is tweaking out and it hurts to be him. The film is oddly slow, although slow Cage is fascinating as freak out Cage. That’s what it feels like when you’re a soul hunter from hell just trying to make it through the day. When he freaks out it’s glorious: a hoarse laugh precedes a raging rant in which Cage almost sings at his victim. The biggest acting is early on in the film though so it actually gets gradually more mainstream.

It’s really interesting that there’s a lot of empty space here. Empty screen space in those locations, empty space where the dialogue is sparse or muted. That’s what I didn’t expect, that part of this crazy take on Ghost Rider would be a mellow performance vehicle. It Cranks out every once in a while but not as often as you want it to. I mean, splicing in real news clips and tweaker montages is different, but it’s not actually good filmmaking. It’s stuff you can’t believe you’re seeing in a studio film, but falls way short of the promise of a Neveldine/Taylor comic book movie.

The plot is nonsense but who needs it? There’s a criminal bounty hunter (Johnny Whitworth) who used to be a drug or gun runner, a kid who’s got some devil in him so the devil (Ciaran Hinds!) wants to be reborn inside him and Ghost Rider has to save him. I wish they’d played by even fewer rules and just done a Johnny Blaze character piece without any obligatory plot.

It’s not even a Ghost Rider movie. He only turns into Ghost Rider three times, and in a brief flashback clip. When he does turn into Ghost Rider, that is recognizably Cage’s skull. That’s definitely his posing, his sway when he walks. I wish he actually peed fire on the bad guys. Maybe in part three.

This must be the most glowing negative review ever. If you’re like me you have to see this movie. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is infinitely more interesting than the first movie, but it’s worse made, which is saying a lot. Cage is awesome and I think it’s really nice of him to help those Neveldine and Taylor fellows out by acting in their movie, but they’re going to have to find their own way.

CraveOnline Rating: 4/10