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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

There will not be a worse movie filmed in
Romania released this year than this

dir: Neveldine/Taylor

You can make a horrible thing worse. It’s true. It’s very obviously possible. And here we have further evidence of this sad fact as the cinema births a new monstrosity aimed at our limpid eyes.

Who takes something horrible and makes it worse on purpose? An evil fairy godmother? A ticket inspector? Dentists? And why would you?

The first Ghost Rider movie, inexplicably shot in Melbourne, was terrible in ways even dedicated viewers of Nic Cage’s films were surprised by. This second flick in this godawful franchise is worse in some expected ways, and terrible in ways that are new but should in no way be confused with inspirational entertainment.

Considering the ‘talent’ on offer here, well, I guess it could have been even worse, but it doesn’t seem likely. They could have strapped cameras to a pack of rabid dogs. They could have told Cage ‘act even crazier, the kids will love it’. They could have made the character an alien who crash-landed on Earth wanting nothing more than to understand this emotion we humans call ‘love’.

Actually, no, it really couldn’t have been worse. The unholy directorial team of Neveldine/Taylor, responsible for such films as those Crank ones, and such shit films as pretty much everything else they’ve ever touched or been associated with, don’t even seem to give enough of a fuck to make a deliberately bad film. It just kinda happened anyway in their rush to finish this exciting new instalment in a stillborn series that should never have been bothered with in the first place.

They’re not known for being trenchant explorers of the human condition or directors capable of holding a camera still for more than a few seconds, but they’ve at least been able to bring humour to the anarchy they’ve capture on film before. What they can’t really do is direct people to act in believable ways, or to ask people to deliver dialogue in ways that humans, supernaturally or otherwise, would believably speak.

My proof for this is that no-one in this flick, with the possible exception of a child character, delivers dialogue in an even semi-competent way. I understand that Nic Cage is undirectable. He’s a lost cause, that’s a given. But at least some of the other people, you’d think, you’d have to think considering how competitive the acting world is, all these piranhas fighting for parts, body or otherwise, that they’d want to put in a good showing, even in something that they know is crap?

Apparently not. Neveldine/Taylor take good, decent, competent actors like Idris Elba, Ciarin Hinds and Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy) and makes them look like horrible hacks. They take terrible actors like Christopher Lambert and makes them even more unconvincing. All terrible, desperate hacks so desperate for a pay check that they’ll sell their souls to Abu Dhabi and shame themselves eternally, for ever more.

In Australia, in the world of football, a world I know little about, we have the phrase “best on ground”. Player of the match. MVP. Worst on ground in this instance has to be Nicolas Cage. I can’t begin to say how odd, off-putting, unconvincing, and amateurish this performance from someone who’s been acting in films since the 70s is.

It’s been common knowledge for several years that Cage, because of financial difficulties, which include being ripped off by an accountant and from buying two castles, takes any role and performs for anyone, like a retarded seal on fire, if the money is right. No-one can dispute this as a driving force, even as we remember back to the handful of decent performances he’s put out over the years. What isn’t as comprehensible is why he’s so terrible even in these throwaway flicks. Either he just plainly doesn’t give a fuck, or he doesn’t remember how to act in a not-totally-fuckheaded way. Let me put it this way: he’s so bad here his performance in Drive Angry looks like a masterclass in acting via comparison.

It’s really quite perplexing to watch him give line readings. In fact, no, fuck it, I’m convinced he probably doesn’t even deign to read scripts anymore, and just yells what he thinks his character would say in any given situation.

I mean, would you, if you were Nic Cage? He’s obviously reached and exceeded the pinnacle of Nic Cageness, and what more is there for him to do? When you’ve become the ultimate version of yourself, the apotheosis - some would say ‘Platonic ideal’- then why vary in any way from the path you’re on? It’s obviously working out perfectly for all concerned.

Stay the course buddy, you’re doing great.

I don’t think he listens to directors anymore, and I don’t think he can see the difference between his good performances and his usual shit. It’s all just acting.

We can still tell, though. It’s pretty fucking obvious.

Johnny Blaze (Cage), having entered into a deal with the, or a devil, gets possessed by this demon which makes his head go all aflame, and which makes him kill bad people by whacking them with a chain, or by yelling at them. Whether it’s the same or different from the first film, it doesn’t goddamn matter, because it’s just dumb. My fingertips feel dumber just from having written about it.

The demon within, he calls it the Rider, is more like being a vampire or a werewolf than in the first flick, and Johnny struggles, with lots of bad acting, to stop the demonic force from coming out at inopportune times.

And what would those inopportune times be? Sitting astride the toilet like Elvis on his last fried sandwich? Petting a puppy? Receiving a lapdance? In the registry office officiating at a wedding?

It never comes up. The opportune time is ‘whenever’. The inopportune time is ‘never’, but the protagonist wants to bitch about it all the same. He is a tortured hero, after all. So tortured, in fact, that he flees to Romania to hide away from humanity. Because, of course, Romania is empty of people, since all of them fled to Bulgaria.

There’s some bullshit about the son of a devil (Fergus Riordan), and that devil, Rourke (Ciarin Hinds) wanting to possess the boy’s body because he’s a flamethrower made of papier mache (I kid you not, that’s a line of dialogue), but no reasonable person could possibly give a good goddamn about any of this. The most you could hope for is that there will be some action, something, anything to take your mind off the fact it’s all so painfully cheap and patently stupid.

It’s hard to differentiate as to which character is more unbelievable: Nicolas Cage as a human or Nicolas Cage as an avenging demonic something-or-other. Both seem too unbelievable, and odd, to be credible. When he transforms into this hot-headed spectre, the mannerisms and head tilting reminded me of odd drunks who catch the number 86 tram and occasionally breathe on you with their potent breath from hell.

And when he’s in his human form, he reminded me of the insane but sober people on the same tram who often regale you with the incredibly unlikely details of their lives as you tell them loudly to fuck off even as they ignore you.

To say that Nicolas Cage is terrible here does a disservice to all the other terrible acting by everyone in this, and also could minimise the fact that yes, he’s terrible in everything now. Idris Elba is a titan of the acting form, best known for playing Stringer Bell on The Wire. He’s terrible in this, too. What’s with the contact lenses? The accent? He’s a French alcoholic monk with a gun? Please punch yourselves in the head, dear screenwriters, you deserve no better reward.

I felt like reaching into the screen and grabbing him by his dusty lapels and muttering, in a somewhat forlorn manner, “Idris, what the fuck happened to you? You used to be beautiful, man.” But Ciarin Hinds comes off even worse, being made to look and act like a curdled milk pudding.

It’s like the directors hated these actors, and wanted audiences to forever more think less of them. Why, Neveldine/Taylor? Didn’t they laugh at your jokes? Did they see your willies in the toilets and laugh at them instead? Did they run over your drug dealer, or something? Why punish everyone by making something so consistently worthless?

There’s no dialogue worth mocking, there’s no acting to speak of, the action is inferior to fight scenes I’ve seen outside pubs at closing time, the effects look cheap, none of the plot makes the least amount of sense necessary, and the whole escapade is entirely bereft of even the slightest humour. I’ve had migraines that were funnier and more entertaining than this.

So, it’s terrible, like the first flick, but it’s terrible in its own, unique ways. They took a shit sandwich of a franchise, and added rusty fishhooks and more stupidity to it, and then put it out there into a grateful world.

Have a fucking sense of humour about yourselves, you creeps. And stop, please, gods, stop putting Nic Cage in these disasters. Or at least taser him every now and then, because he’s starting to erase his performances from his good movies in our minds.

Just stop it, already

1 reason why the kid actor, or the ‘Anakin Skywalker’ giving the best performance in a flick means it’s a disaster out of 10

“Worst fucking deal I ever made.” – it’s on a par with the deal I made forking over cash to see this – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance