Once, when Billy Crystal was being brutally mocked by professional hanger on ‚??Stuttering‚?Ě John Melendez, he defensively whined, ‚??You‚??ll laugh and have a good time, but it‚??s not fun.‚?Ě Sure, it was a barely coherent thought muttered by a desperately unfunny hack, but it also sums up what it‚??s like to watch any film Nicolas Cage has appeared in since ‚??Adaptation‚?Ě (and, for the most part, prior to ‚??Adaptation‚?Ě as well).
Cage has always made bad career decisions. It just wasn‚??t as noticeable when he was younger and didn‚??t have Velcro for hair. But now that he‚??s getting older and starting to resemble a lumpier Paul Giamatti, it‚??s getting pretty difficult to ignore the fact that everything he appears in is basically just a slight variation on ‚??Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.‚?Ě
Created by Gary Friedrich, the Ghost Rider character made its first appearance in Marvel Spotlight #5. Ghost Rider was an amalgamation of Evel Knievel, Fonzie‚??s jacket, that Buddhist monk who was protesting the war in Vietnam and Anton LaVey‚??s Church of Satan. In other words, the character combined everything that was great and will ever be great about this wonderful country of ours. Unfortunately, the Ghost Rider movies never really tapped into that indefinable, plastic-voodoo-DayGlo-skull aesthetic that made the comic so much fun.
Once again, Cage (seemingly under duress) steps into the role of Johnny Blaze a stunt cyclist who sold his soul to the devil in order to save his father from cancer but winds up being cursed to transform into Ghost Rider, an angry spirit of vengeance with a flaming skull for a head, whenever he senses that evil is about. Johnny is given the opportunity to be freed from his curse if he helps an alcoholic priest (Idris Elba, whose character is given most of the exposition but for some reason insists on speaking it in an indecipherable French accent) track down the literal son of Satan before the boy‚??s otherworldly father (Ciaran Hinds, who was either suffering through a stroke when he shot his scenes or the only actor in the world that‚??s somehow hammier than Cage) finds him and uses him for his own nefarious purposes.
‚??Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‚?Ě is junk but it‚??s not the fun kind of junk. Which is shocking when you consider that is was directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the same guys behind brilliant trash like the ‚??Crank‚?Ě movies and ‚??Gamer.‚?Ě This ‚??Ghost Rider‚?Ě had so much potential to become pure, electrifying garbage but everybody in front of and behind the camera simply just phones it in. As if they were making a depressing, cable-ready ‚??Ghost Rider‚?Ě sequel for the Syfy channel. The storyline is basically just ‚??Rosemary‚??s Baby‚?Ě after it was dunked in a vat of Axe body spray and then swaddled in the finest, most tiger-y Ed Hardy T-shirt. Even Cage, who usually throws himself into these terrible movies, performs his scenes as if he was just violently roused from a deep sleep and is still too exhausted to figure out why he‚??s kind of doing an Elvis impression in the middle of Eastern Europe.
Perfunctory and frustratingly generic, ‚??Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance‚?Ě only serves to remind you that ‚??Leaving Las Vegas‚?Ě was a long time ago.