Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Nicolas Cage
GHOST RIDER (2007). Director/writer: Mark Steven Johnson.

"I feel much better now that I know I'm the devil's bounty hunter."

Stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) makes a deal with a weird character who turns out to be Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) when he discovers that his father (Brett Cullen) is dying of cancer: his soul in exchange for his father's cure. The Devil does indeed make the elder Blaze healthy, but he still dies the next day -- after all the trickster only promised he'd cure him of his cancer, which he did. About twenty years go by and Johnny -- now played by a middle-aged Nicolas Cage -- discovers that he can transform into a character with a fiery skull riding on a sleek, high-concept motorcycle and is supposed to collect souls of evil men and send them to Satan. Trouble is, Mephistopheles' son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) is taking on dear old dad and wants Blaze to work for him, and he's got a posse of demons in long black coats and with lots of attitude to help him [although everyone's motivations seem kind of foggy.]

When Marvel's Ghost Rider comic book debuted in the 1970's Johnny was a confused twenty-something struggling with the cosmic concepts he was embroiled in and hating and conflicted by his night life as a demonic force of nature. Making the character much older doesn't make much sense -- why would Satan wait twenty years for one thing? --  especially as actor Matt Long [a "heart throb" who can also act] would have been perfect for the role, but, alas, he hasn't as bankable a name as Cage's. Cage seems to be stoned through much of the movie, and the audience may wish it was, because Ghost Rider -- despite some good effects  and design work -- is pretty much a bore with both script and direction lacking that certain veracity and elan. Eva Mendes is along for the ride as Johnny's supposed girlfriend, Roxanne. Fonda is okay as the devil, as is Wes Bentley as his son; Brett Cullen is fine as Johnny's father. Sam Elliott of Frogs fame shows up as a mystical "caretaker" and former Ghost Rider. Followed by a sequel that was even more disliked by the fans.

Verdict: A ride you need not take. *.

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