film review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)

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Finally, someone gave Neveldine & Taylor a real budget.

Not that they need one, they seem to do a fine job with what they have. Crank and Crank: High Voltage are two of some of my favourite films of the last 10 years. These guys have a way of making films that’s just great fun… when left to their own devices. The question hanging over Ghost Rider 2 though was… how would they fare with a big studio on board?

Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance poster, Nicolas CageThankfully, despite the big studio, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is still unashamedly a Neveldine/Taylor film. For fans of the Cranks the worrying was needless. The boys have scaled up their madness (mostly with fire and explosions) and turned out a 12A action movie with violence that satisfies.

Now, I never saw the first Ghost Rider film nor have I even seen the comics in a shop, so the little catch up near the start was handy for me… That said, it’s really quite irrelevant. The main thing is, every once in a while Nicolas Cage has to fight the fiery skulled demon inside him who wants to kill people. And sometimes he loses.

There is, of course, a plot in this film. Presumably something the studio demanded. It’s provided by David S. Goyer, writer of the stories for Blade, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Which I guess is reasonable pedigree. I’m not a huge fan of the new Batman flicks, but how or never. You can’t say he hasn’t got ideas. In the case of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance though, it’s mainly a fancy coathanger to hang the Neveldine/Taylor aesthetic on…

Well.. the Neveldine/Taylor aesthetic and Nicolas Cage’s performance.

Nicolas Cage is Ghost Rider 2’s pièce de résistance. I cannot imagine enjoying this film if he wasn’t in it. Well, maybe Jason Statham could have been a laugh too but Nicolas Cage has a self-awareness that makes his every ridiculous turns hilarious. I laughed a lot at this film. Couple this with the Neveldine/Taylor touches and it all just works.

It’s funny… Up until 2010, I would have told you that Nicolas Cage was one of the worst actors on the planet. In my review of March 2010’s Kick-Ass, I said I couldn’t stand him. Then I saw The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans and it all just clicked into place. Nicolas Cage knows what he’s doing, it just takes the right director to channel the right movie around Nicolas Cage. Or put simply, every Nicolas Cage film gets the Nicolas Cage it deserves. A viewing of Vampire’s Kiss will cement this fact for you. No-one accidentally acts like that. The man is a genius.

To be honest, this is all you really need to know about Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Neveldine/Taylor direct and film at their usual frenetic pace, injecting shots of humour here there and everywhere, while Nicolas Cage does what he does best. Act like a madman.

If I left it there, I’d probably be short-changing the rest of the cast though. Ciarán Hinds is excellent (well, you know, for a 12A action film – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) as Roarke, who I think is basically The Devil. It’s worth mentioning as well that there’s some good prosthetics on display as well – a welcome bolstering of the art, after the travesty that was J. Edgar. Idris Elba again impresses in a relatively simple role – I’m looking forward to seeing how he does in this summer Prometheus. And the others are all fine, in again, relatively small roles.

The fact is, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a rollicking good laugh, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. If I’m being honest, I’d say the plot is a little convoluted but that’s my only real complaint… just go along for the ride and you should enjoy it.


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