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by Ann Morrow on February 23, 2012

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Directed by Neveldine/Taylor

Johnny Blaze, the Marvel comics stunt biker who made a pact with the devil, spends so much time up in flames that it’s a wonder that audiences doesn’t succumb to heat exhaustion. And if they don’t, they may expire out of tedium, anyway. Even worse than the original, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance finds Blaze (Nicolas Cage) hiding out in Eastern Europe, battling “the hunger” that is growing stronger deep within him, blah, blah, until he is offered another kind of deal: to protect a young boy spawned by Satan (Ciaran Hinds) to provide the aging devil with a new and improved bodily vessel. It’s The Omen: Part 999 mixed with Highlander: The Umpteenth Sequel (Christopher Lambert appears in a disappointing vignette), only crappier. On the run with the boy’s mother (Violante Placido), Blaze stands around jawing at the bad guys with his gaping skull-head on fire, though he never actually eats any of them (that might’ve been fun: henchmen barbeque, anyone?), in return, they shoot off bigger, and bigger, and (unintentionally) comically gargantuan guns at him, long after they should’ve realized that bullets don’t have much of an effect.

Cage’s gonzo shtick is unfocused and clueless, and barely registers anyway under the brain-dead pummeling of Crank directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who flay the gobbledygook plot with a noisy soundtrack, sloppy camerawork, and animated, black-and-white digressions about Blaze’s satanic curse, or something-or-other involving miles of bike chain falling into an abyss. They also totally blow the film’s single moment of potential humor, involving a zombie trying to eat lunch; only a Twinkie survives its life-draining grasp. As for the drawn-out, fireballs-a-flyin’ climax, there isn’t a crumb from the comic book that survives the directors’ ineptitude.