“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” buckles under even the lowest of expectations

Few things sting more than when high expectations are not delivered. Perhaps the only scenario of equal disappointment is when modest ambitions fail spectacularly. Such is the case of “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”, a film whose endless corn-ball potential is never once reached.

“Spirit of Vengeance” is an adaptation of one of the trashier comic-book-heroes out there; the story of motorcycle-stuntman Johnny Blaze, and the deal forcing him to do the Devil’s dirty work as a flaming skeletal biker. It’s a premise tasty enough to tease. But for the second time with this character , a filmmaking team has totally dropped the ball on making a coherent feature film, let alone the bad-ass one this character deserves.

Johnny’s ghostly duties in “Spirit of Vengeance” lead him to babysitting an unassuming 12-year-old who just may be the Devil’s son himself, and preventing snarky bad guys from using these powers for evil. It’s a simple enough foundation to lay some great beats onto, but the normally-hyperkinetic directing duo Neveldine/Taylor just don’t seem to have it in them.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to love about this dynamic duo, it’s their free-spirited, do-it-yourself approach to action filmmaking. It’s not uncommon of them to get the footage they need on roller-blades, and their normally computer-free aesthetics are totally refreshing.

Every quality I’ve come to love about them is absent from “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. All of the jerkiness is there, but none of the rhythm, the purpose, the fun. If their past works came across as being authored by infectiously goofy teenage boys, “Spirit of Vengeance” seems like the work of a blind Parkinsons patient who’s never held a movie camera in their life.

The plot itself is little more than the protagonists travelling from Point A to Point B. Naturally, villains travel from Point C to Point B. How else would the mediocre action happen? And yes, the fact that the action’s totally one-note and repetitive is “Spirit of Vengeance”s most crushing disappointment. It consists of Nicolas Cage slowly walking towards a baddie, slowly staring into their eyes, slowly bringing them to justice, and slowly making his way to the other. It’s static, listless filmmaking about a flaming, whip-toting demon. A true cinematic miracle. D

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