Movie Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

Columbia Pictures
Runtime: 95 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, and language)
Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Writers: Scott M. Gimple, Seth Hoffman
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba
Action | fantasy | Thriller

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is like something made by and for bikers or trade school students looking to get into the film business, but knowing only the appeal of motorcycles with flame graphics and the color black. And when something will only entertain these groups, we know the rest of us aren’t left with much.

What we’re left with is something that feels filthy. When you watch it, you feel just as filthy—even filthier if you happen to like it. This movie is a continuation of the 2007 Ghost Rider, also featuring Nicholas Cage.

“Johnny Blaze” (Cage) has been hiding out in Europe trying to contain the soul-hungry entity within him. In the first movie, we learned that Blaze was cursed with an indwelling spirit that must periodically emerge to satiate its hunger by consuming the wicked.

When this thing comes out, it makes Blaze’s head into a skull and lights it on fire, and for some reason, chooses a motorbike to set on fire and to ride around on while terrifying certain people before consuming them.

This entity kills mainly evil people who are ready to die, but you dare not get too close when it comes out. This is in a universe where Satan is running around with weakened powers and thrives by making deals with ingrates and empowering them to accomplish his bidding at a price.

When the film begins, we find Blaze still in hiding. He runs into “Moreau” (Idris Elba) who informs him that if he will help him find a special child (Fergus Riordan) and bring him to him, he will lift the “ghost rider” curse. It complicates things (both for the audience and the script) that the child to be recovered is Satan’s offspring. Moreau wants to keep him from being used by his father of darkness to become powerful enough to rule the world.

In the quest for the boy, Blaze crosses paths with the boy’s mother “Nadya” (Violante Placido) and the two work together with Moreau to accomplish the goal. This is against “Ray,” Nadya’s ex-husband (Johnny Whitworth) who is working for the big bad guy—all this in a movie that is bad, but not big.

The movie will have no problem being understood by everyone in that everything is explained (and re-explained) almost to death. This is accompanied by some of the flattest dialog, which is matched only by the sorry performances from just about everyone. One possible exception would be Riordan who could re-emerge in anything else on screen and we’d be happy to see him.

“Roarke,” here affectionately known as “Satan” (Ciarán Hinds), can be anything from a corrupt priest to a congressman to…well, yes, the devil, but here he is an overstated, pompous buffoon (and who are we kidding…actually one of the least threatening Satans ever). As the baddest of bad guys, he has to come off extra nasty, and what better way to do that than to manifest as a cutthroat who will betray his own even while others he’s made a deal with are standing around.

As overly dramatic and hiccupy as it is cheesy, this might be a pyromaniac's wet dream. Everyone behaves and talks like kids trying to improv their favorite movie scene for mom and dad in the living room. Throw in some bible references, like the bread and body of Christ, and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and confession of sins and you have this movie that exists as cool only in the minds of those who can be won over by its surface-only symbolism.

There is some level of appeal, and yes, a couple of funny lines spread out—if you're not repulsed away from watching it before getting to them. In the meantime, familiar sound bite reuses and cheap CGI/3D doesn’t do much, but will have to be enough.

If you like the lowbrow entertainment of car-jumping action, the undead, bible terminology, and the usual cultic antichrist buzz, you might – dare I say – give this a try. But don’t say you weren’t warned. Perhaps getting just a mural of a flaming skull and a black Harley would be better than sitting through this mess—and it would last longer.