Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) is back, but Eva Mendes isn’t. Yet I still watched this movie ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I give and I give and I give some more, but do I ever get anything back in return? No I don’t my friends.

Somewhere in Eastern Europe… and that’s what the text placard said, ‘Eastern Europe’ like that’s a precise location or something… a child is holed up in a monastery. Father Moreau (Idris Elba) cruises up on his motorbike and warns the proprietor of this joint that nobody’s safe and that they need to get this kid to the care of ‘The Rider’. Idris Elba’s Father Moreau character is French in this movie. Idris Elba’s contribution to the French language in this movie, with nary a French accent, consisted of two words, those being Bonjour and Merde. Outstanding.

So the proprietor tells the wine swilling French priest that he’s wrong and that this place is a fortress, and if by ‘fortress’ he meant that anybody can roll up and kill everybody, then that’s what he meant. Fortunately the boy, Danny (Fergus Reardon), has a mother in Nadya (Violete Placido) who knows how to handle a gun and is used to being on the run and scurries the boy to safety. Temporarily speaking.

Where exactly is The Rider right now? Well Johnny Blaze is also in ‘Eastern Europe’ wrestling with the demon that lives within. Our French priest tracks him down, tells him about the boy that the Satanic character Roarke (Ciaran Hinds) needs for something or another, and advises Johnny that if he helps out, he knows a way he can rid himself of the curse forever. Johnny Blaze and The Ghost Rider are down for that plan. I don’t why the Ghost Rider would be on board since this would mean he would cease to exist, but maybe having to listen to Blaze bitch and whine 24-7 has become too much for the poor demon spawn.

By this time the boy has been sequestered by the completely evil Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), working on Roarke’s behalf, and while Carrigan was cool with this easy gig, that being holding on to an eleven year old boy, running into The Ghost Rider made this gig exponentially less attractive.

The question would be ‘why does Satan want this boy?’ Since he is Satan and stuff it can’t be for anything good, that much we know. Also, expecting to The Rider to be problematic, Roarke has erected The Rider’s arch-enemy Blackout to keep things at bay. Yes, we know that Blackout is actually Dan Ketch’s arch enemy and not Johnny Blaze’s, but what’s a little comic universe mixing between friends? You don’t see us complaining about the completely incorrect use of Hellfire do you? Just expect to see a weird ceremony, at the stroke of midnight, attended by freaks wearing floor length hoodies. And Johnny Blaze will learn that being the hellspawn of Satan does have its upside.

‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’… is it a good movie? Probably not. Is it better than the first Ghost Rider from five years back which was certainly no masterpiece? Not necessarily, but it is different. This version was directed by Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine of ‘Crank’ fame, and while their worth as film directors is certainly divisive among those in the film watching community, they do have a unique style which at least sets them apart. For better or worse. Personally, I watched this movie almost completely detached from what was going on directly in front of me. No doubt, this movie has almost all of the requirements one would expect from a balls to the wall, mayhem filled action flick with all the car chases, explosions, lots of Nic Cage wigging out, shootouts, bad guys all over the place… even in monasteries…. Plenty of Neveldine and Taylor’s signature visual cues and of course The Rider incessantly incinerating folks. Though there was one odd scene where The Rider was staring into the eyes of this one sucker for far too long. I was thinking they were gonna make out something. Film Editor… a little help over here. But despite all the action and The Rider’s awesome ability to turn anything into a flaming vehicle, the whole exercise felt antiseptic for some reason.

The best parts of the movie for me didn’t involve any action, but were certain characters and odd instances of wacky dialog. For instance, anytime Idris Elba and his French Priest were on the screen, this movie was funny. Part of it was how non-French Mr. Elba was in this movie, but most of it was that Elba made the character one of the more interesting one’s in the movie. The last two times we saw Idris Elba in a horror type movie… ‘The Unborn’ and ‘The Reaping’…. He didn’t make it. Good luck Idris Elba. Also Christopher Lambert was in this movie. That’s awesome all by itself. Then, knowing that the boy we’re trying to save is the demon seed of Satan and his very existence… no matter how sweet he might be today… put’s the entire human population in peril, and hearing his mother say ‘I’ve done some bad things… but Danny is the one thing I’ve done that’s good’. Uh… okay mom. That’s priceless.

Regardless ‘Spirit of Vengeance’ was a little edgier than ‘Ghost Rider’, but there was still this odd, uninvolving disconnect from eyeball to screen. Who knows what that was all about? That being said, if you take this movie for what it is, you will probably get some entertainment value out of it.

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