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Time to give up the Ghost Rider'

February 22, 2012
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Sequel features little more than an insane leading man
This just in: Nicolas Cage is effing crazy.

No review of Cage's latest film, 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,' should start from any other point. Cage. Is. Insane. We've all heard the stories of his financial issues and his weird proclivity for buying giant yachts and pyramids. We all know that his Elvis obsession was so deep that he married the King's daughter and that he named one of his kids Kal-El after Superman.

And yet Cage's performance in 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' outcrazies all of that crazy with crazy to spare.

The movie reintroduces us to Johnny Blaze (Cage) and brings us all up to the speed on the whole 'Ghost Rider' thing. Basically, Blaze is possessed by a demon that is the spirit of vengeance or whatever. Said demon manifests itself as a fiery skeleton riding an equally fiery motorcycle and indiscriminately punishes anyone who ever did anything bad ever.

Anyway, Johnny has removed himself from society in an attempt to control the darkness inside him. However, he gets pulled into an attempt to save a young boy from those same forces of darkness; the boy's father is the same baddie named Roarke (Ciaran Hinds, 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy') who convinced Blaze to sell his soul in the first place.

(SPOILER ALERT: Roarke is totally the devil.)

Blaze falls in with the boy's mother (Violante Placido, 'The American') and a French warrior priest named Moreau (Idris Elba, 'Thor') as they try to get the boy someplace safe and avoid the clutches of Roarke and his lead minion Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth, 'Limitless') as they try to use the child to unleash the true power of Hell.

I know I led with this, but I cannot emphasize the point enough: Nicolas Cage is insane. Seriously. All of that plot synopsis you just got? Meaningless, because you will be unable to devote your attention to anything other than the lunatic tour de force performance being alternately bellowed and whispered by Mr. Cage. It's like he found a way to string together every single weird tic - physical and vocal alike - that he has ever used in a performance. It's all twitchy, eye-bulging cackling madness.

And - God help us - it's magnificent.

Please don't mistake me; I am not saying this is a good movie. This isn't even a mediocre movie. This movie would have to have some serious aspirations to even achieve a label as good as 'bad.' But the epic terribleness of Cage's performance is almost hypnotic. Put it this way - it's clear that the cast and crew were looking to create some campy, trashy fun with this movie, and yet even with that caveat, Cage is so far over the top that he transcends our traditional notions of good and bad.

Seriously - the whole thing is like some sort of horrifying Hollywood fever dream.

Honestly, if somewhere down the road, it turns out that 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' was intended as some sort of experimental comedy, then the filmmakers are geniuses and Nicolas Cage is our generation's Brando.

If this review seems self-contradictory in places, I apologize. But that's the experience I had with this movie. It's a bad, bad, BAD movie, but it's almost worth the price of admission just to watch Nicolas Cage's bafflingly unbalanced psychosis unspooling in 3D. Look - most of you would be best served by staying far away from 'GR:SOV,' but if you're a connoisseur of high camp, you probably shouldn't miss this.

1 out of 5

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