Director: Mark Steven Johnson
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Peter Fonda
To cure his father, a carnival stunt motorcyclist makes a deal with the Devil. Many years later the Devil calls in his debt, turns the motorcyclist into the Ghost Rider, and sends him to hunt down demons that have escaped from hell.
Late in January, I watched the preview for Ghost Rider and predicted that the movie would score about 40 once I reviewed it. I think I hit the mark on many of my concerns about the film, but somehow the total sum of the parts wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Somehow, someway, Ghost Rider crawled over its problems to moderately entertain me for a couple of hours.
Don’t get me wrong: in many ways this film is awful. First and foremost, the acting and script are painful. Nicolas Cage seems lost as Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze, and never settles into the role. At times his character appears to be a total idiot. At other times it just looks like Cage forgot his lines, or wishes he were dead instead of making this movie—take a look at the nearby photo for a perfect example of this. It’s painful to watch. This may be the worst I have ever seen him act. He gets no help whatsoever from Eva Mendes, who plays Blaze’s love interest Roxanne Simpson. She consistently gave me flashbacks to Cindy Crawford in Fair Game. It’s that bad. Peter Fonda, as the devil Mephistopheles, is somnolent. The rest of the cast ranges from average to poor, with the notable exceptions of Wes Bentley, as the devil’s son Blackheart, and Sam Elliot, as the Gatekeeper. Both of these actors manage to carry a presence on screen that put them above the rest of the cast. On the whole, however, the poor acting and vapid script kill any chances the movie had to develop characters and get us more involved.
There are more problems as well. The pace of the movie never hits stride, and there are scenes that linger too long on many occasion. Just when things seem to be picking up, something happens and you find yourself waiting for the movie to get unstuck. To be honest, a lot of the pacing problems come from the uninspiring story and inability of the actors to convince you of anything. As a result, things just seem to happen as if there are on a track, and character motives feel artificial, as if the characters are actors playing roles in a movie. Oh, wait.
But just when I was convinced this movie was dropping into a fiery mess and just when I’d catch myself wondering when it was going to end, something interesting would happen. Maybe it was Ghost Rider’s flaming skull, or perhaps it was just a flash of Eva Mendes’ cleavage, or maybe it was simply the huge beer I had before the movie, but the movie would pick up again and I’d find myself entertained. There is just enough good in this movie to keep you involved.
The action scenes are well choreographed and above average. There are fights, bike rides up the sides of skyscrapers, whipping chains, and fireballs. The visual effects on the Ghost Rider and the ambient effects on the whole add quite a bit to the entertainment value of the movie, especially if you are into fire. Something for everyone here, and on the whole the action scenes are the highlight of the movie.
There are other plusses. The villains deserve praise. They reek of evil, and come replete with some snappy visual effects enhancements to improve their look. In the Babe category, we’ve got Eva Mendes, who appeared chunkier than I remembered her, but still is so hot that she can set her own photos on fire. She helps to pass the time during some of the slower scenes, which are basically all the scenes she appears in. In the Hunk category, Wes Bentley leads the way, but he doesn’t get much help.
Ghost Rider also has a tongue-in-cheek, campy, Western vibe that runs through it, and this adds some likeable charm to the movie. In particular, the Texas ghost town at the end of the movie is a brilliant accomplishment. The spooky, timeless, ethereal nature of the town raises the quality of the last fifteen minutes of the movie. Largely due to this, the final confrontation brings the movie to a satisfying close.
Overall, Ghost Rider sits firmly in the middle of the pack. It has serious problems that constantly make you want to head for the exit, but somehow the plusses keep you seated and entertained just enough to not give up on the movie. It never succeeds in pulling you in to the movie and making you care about what happens, but it can provide some decent B-grade entertainment if you are willing to overlook its significant drawbacks.
According to IMDB, it took three hours to apply Nicolas Cage’s hairpiece every day.
Consistent Premise: 52
Body Count: 20
Time to First Dead Body: Moderately Fast
Special Effects: 60
Overall: 48 (Needs beer)