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"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is a Demonic Dud 

Wednesday, Feb 22 2012
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Nicolas Cage makes erratic, frequently indefensible decisions: in his personal finances, in front of the camera, and especially in guiding his career. This makes him startling, gauche, and sometimes unexpectedly touching as an actor, though after so many déclassé paycheck jobs, he today presides over a big-budget B-movie sub-genre all his own, of which this sequel to 2007's Ghost Rider is the latest catalog entry. We catch up with Johnny Blaze in Eastern Europe. Blaze, the former stuntman who, since signing away his soul, periodically combusts into a leather-clad demon with a flaming skull, is employed in keeping the Devil (Ciarán Hinds) away from his 13-year-old son and the kid's mortal mother (Violante Placido). Cage-ophiles will find some delectable freakouts in Blaze's transformation — or near transformation — scenes. Otherwise, the committee-penned script combines yokel-friendly haw-haw irreverence (nonsequitur cutaways to the Rider pissing in a flamethrower pattern) and sweaty monologues about "controlling the Rider" (the character is basically a mean drunk's superhero). The visual scheme resembles the sort of flames-and-chains-and-skulls motif that you used to find on fairground prize mirrors, and directing team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (of the Crank films) lash the widescreen around like the Rider's avenging chain, without lending the film anything resembling momentum. The standards of all involved are so obviously floorboard-high that there's not much to say after the lights come up other than one of Blaze's "one-liners": "So, that happened."

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Nick Pinkerton

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