Don Bauder 5:30 p.m., Jan. 29
Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Q: What’s harder to find than a pack of wild unicorn?
A: The script Nicolas Cage turned down.
In the presence of evil, Johnny Blaze (Cage) turns into a monster who sucks the life out of his enemies. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer) must hold their audience in equal contempt for that is the exact feeling one is left with by picture’s end.
Who ordered a sequel to Ghost Rider? Did the first film make that much money? (Yikes! $228 million.) One of the reasons Neveldine gives for wanting to join the franchise is because “this dude has a flaming skull and kicks major ass.” That, plus a decent payday, are his incentives for signing on. What are yours?
For the uninformed, in part one, Hollywood stunt motorcyclist, Blaze sells his soul to become a demon vigilante who does battle against Beelzebub’s son (Peter Fonda). The setting now shifts to “Somewhere in Eastern Europe,” where Blaze takes on Satan himself in the form of Ciarán Hinds. Since the material is drawn from a Marvel Comic, both actors are allowed room for exaggeration. There is more arm flailing, contorting of faces, and growling on display than at a gathering of George C. Scott impersonators.
Cage returns as the chopper-bound figment endowed with the carnal instincts of a werewolf matched to The Human Torch’s blazing personality. Together they empower him with an indestructibility that rivals Daffy Duck’s beak.
What is with Nicolas Cage suddenly playing paternal figures? In just two years, Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Jay Baruchel (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Claire Foy (Season of the Witch), Liana Liberato (Tresspass), and now Fergus Riordan have all been taken under wobbly old Saint Nic’s wing. Cage is (almost) always fun to watch, but his papa-shtick has yet to connect. Columbia refused to screen the film in advance, and based on the six opening-nighters that joined me in the Gaslamp #7 to catch the first evening performance in 3D, Spirit of Vengeance is not about to set the box office ablaze.
Eva Mendes took a pass on reprising her character so this edition’s damsel in distress, Nadya, is played by smokey-eyed Italian actress Violante Placido (The American). Riordan has the Rosemary’s Baby role, the spawn of Satan who must be taught that the power may come from a dark place, but it does not define him.
The film establishes a set of ground rules, the first being there are no ground rules. When secondary villain Johnny Whitworth (Empire Records) is done away with, all Hinds need do is touch his wrist and the dude is brought back to life complete with an Edgar Winter makeover. Why bother killing him in the first place?
Danny asks Blaze the burning question, “What if you have to pee when you’re on fire?” Blaze’s fuel-injected glans gives new meaning to the term “pissing out forest fires.”
There is one good joke involving the shelf-life of a Twinkie, but it’s not enough to recommend this to anyone with taste or something better to do with $14.00.
Reader Rating: Zero Stars
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