Cage as biker from hell: A near-classic

Posted: February 18, 2012

Of all the bad horror/fantasy/sci-fi/action pictures Nicolas Cage has cranked out over the last decade, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the Nic Cagiest. A goofy, gonzo thrill ride, Vengeance is a bad-movie sequel so bad it's good - a bad movie that's almost a great bad movie.

It's still a profoundly silly mash-up of comic book and quasi-religious "prophecy" about a motorcyclist who sold his soul to the devil, and who transforms into a flaming avenger hurtling out of hell when the need arises. But this time around, Cage and everybody else on board are in on the joke.

Credit the directing duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, action auteurs who go by the moniker "Neveldine/Taylor." For jacked-up action, the guys who made the Crank movies (great bad movies) have no peers. In fact, they should call themselves "The Crank Brothers." It fits.

In Vengeance, the "Rider" (Cage) is haunted by the life he now leads. But a boy (Fergus Riordan) born of the devil (Ciaran Hinds) needs the Rider's help. Satan, who wears double-breasted suits and alligator shoes, needs the kid to fulfill a prophecy. He's commissioned Corrigan (Johnny Whitworth) to grab the kid. A wine-swilling biker-angel (Idris Elba) and the boy's mother (Violante Placido, as ineffably gorgeous as her name) are all that stand between the devil and the boy who "completes" Satan's Grand Design.

The angel fetches Johnny Blaze, biker-turned-Ghost Rider. The guy who made a deal with the devil and the woman who slept with Satan click right off. But Johnny Blaze states the obvious: "We've both got to work on our decision-making."

Spirit of Vengeance is dumb, loud, and over the top in between its dead spots. But it's great to see what the Crank Brothers can do when you give them $75 million to make a biker-from-hell picture. And it's great that they let Cage in on the joke.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance **1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. With Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido, Idris Elba, Ciaran Hinds. Distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 35 mins.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (intense action and violence, disturbing images)

Playing at: area theaters