Movie review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Johnny Blaze has a problem. He sold his soul to the devil and like most Faustian deal-makers, he’ll do anything to get it back. Nicolas Cage returns as one blazing bad-boy on a bike in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is set somewhere in Eastern Europe where each raven-haired, blue-eyed Slavic gal is more beautiful than the last (note to self: wear more eyeliner). Possibly a gypsy, Violante Placido plays Nadya, the mother of a very unique boy who may be the devil incarnate. After her son Danny, played by a stoic Fergus Riordan, is kidnapped by Roarke, an oddly-cast Ciaran Hinds, the Catholic Church hires Ghost Rider to retrieve him. If he brings them the boy, they will lift his curse -- much easier said than done.
With post-apocalyptic art design and a rocking' death-metal soundtrack, this movie succeeds with its turbulent action sequences and pyrotechnic rampages. There are also some fun glimmers of humor only a film this kooky can provide. Like when Nicolas Cage refers to Nadya as the "devil's baby-momma" or when Danny asks the Ghost Rider, "What happens if you have to pee when you're on fire?" His answer makes for certainly more than one teenage boy's fantasy. The film gets Toyota Prius-equivalent mileage out of Catholic archetypes and rituals, providing the strangest Holy Communion ever seen through 3-D glasses.
Cage makes good use of his quirks, facial tics and penchant for going over the top (when he's not shown as just a flaming skull). But playing a character like the Ghost Rider takes this kind of commitment. Based on the Marvel comic books, Cage stays true to the dark, outlandish tone. British Shakespearian actor Ciaran Hinds is less successful in this genre, appearing to channel Robert De Niro in Cape Fear and coming off a little goofy. That said, Hinds was the best Caesar I could have ever imagined in HBO's Rome. Idris Elba in super-sexy gold contact lenses plays Monroe, grounding the story with his strong will and enduring religious faith.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance battles good and evil in three dimensions, never compromising for sentimentality and always pushing the flashy, fiery envelope of spectacle.
Bottom line: If you like to watch things ignite into flames while pondering the nature of evil, you'll love this movie.