The Crank Guys Energize Ghost Rider!


I was in the minority when it came to Ghost Rider, a few years back. It worked as a western, a biker flick, and a superhero movie. I also love the work of the Crank guys, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. So I was pretty stoked to see Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

Not exactly a sequel, more like a reboot, Spirit of Vengeance finds Johnny Blaze [Nicolas Cage] somewhere in Eastern Europe when an imposing black dude [Idris Elba] on a motorcycle finds him and asks him to find and rescue a kid named Danny [Fergus Riordan]. It seems that Roarke [Ciaran Hinds], the devil on Earth, wants him, which can’t be good.

Turns out that Danny is Roarke’s son and therefore capable to wielding the devil’s full power where Roarke’s purely human host cannot. Blaze must find Danny and get him to a special, safe location until the solstice passes and Roarke cannot complete the ritual to take over Danny’s body.

There are obstacles. Danny’s mom, Nadya [Violante Placido] has an ex, named Carrigan [Johnny Whitworth] whom Roarke has hired to bring the boy to him. Tough as Nadya is, she can’t stop Carrigan and his gang – though the Rider can.

But Roarke has an ace up his sleeve – he can change Carrigan, give him power. Specifically, the power to rot everything he touches.

The script, by Seth M. Gimple, Sean Hoffman and David S. Goyer [from Goyer’s story], is a pretty basic arc on which to hang some unnerving stunts, deft camerawork and surprisingly few CG effects [well, in comparison to most superhero movies]. It also plays more to horror and humor than to westerns, or standard superhero movies.

Cage gets to show some range here, from delicately nuanced moments to flaming over the top craziness, and is clearly enjoying himself here. Hinds, who can play the kindest and most empathetic of souls, goes in exactly the opposite direction here – practically oozing evil from every pore. Placido is both desperate and resolute in her efforts to save her son, and Riordan is perfectly acceptable as Danny.

The most delicious moments, however, come from Whitworth, whose Carrigan is nonchalant about taking out the Rider with a two-stage bazooka, or reveling in his newfound abilities. He also gets the movie’s single best gag as he tries to eat but finds regular food rotting before he can even take a bite.

Neveldine/Taylor continue to be madmen behind the camera. When Elba’s Moreau goes over the edge on a mountain road, that’s not being captured by an automated on a crane – one of the directors is hooked up to the thing, just like the stuntman who takes Elba’s place. Shots that appear to be coming from unusual angles during chases sequences are the result of one of the directors being towed along – on rollerblades – to get the shots they wanted.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a bit of a rush, when you come right down to it. The Rider’s flaming skull is more intimidating/scary than in the first film; the stunts are more out there, and there’s even a sequence which gives us the origin of the demon that Blaze becomes – and a cool payoff to that revelation.

Final Grade: B