Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance - Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze - still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter - is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy - and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.
In its best moments, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is an amusingly gonzo popcorn movie fueled by the combined manic energy of its star, Nicolas Cage, who reprises his turn as the tormented Marvel Comics antihero, and directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer). The trio's performances in front of and behind the camera seem to indicate their wish for Spirit of Vengeance to be regarded not as a sequel to the wan 2007 Ghost Rider film, but rather an entity unto itself, and in truth, the picture does work overtime to distance itself from its predecessor, from its fast-and-loose origin rewrite at the picture's opening to its tonal shift towards darker, meaner territory. That doesn't entirely translate into a better film: though the script, based on a story by David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins), bears greater resemblance to its comic book origins than its predecessor, its story, which sends the Ghost Rider on a mission to protect the son of Satan (Ciarán Hinds), is unable to thread its diverse elements, which include a listless rendition of veteran heel Blackout (Johnny Whitworth), po-faced, high-tech monks led by Christopher Lambert, and Idris Elba's fighting priest, along with assorted exorcisms, rituals, and come-and-go powers, into a cohesive and believable film. That, of course, may make no difference to viewers who have come for the sheer spectacle, which, in spite of a greatly reduced budget, is provided in spades by Neveldine/Taylor's caffeinated direction and Cage's by-now trademark acting excesses (in his most unfettered moments, Cage approaches Klaus Kinski/Timothy Carey levels of scenery consumption). In doing so, they inject a sense of breakneck fun into the proceedings, regardless of its absurd elements, sorely lacking from the previous Ghost Rider adventure. Extras are limited to six deleted and extended scenes, none of which add up to anything special; those seeking more supplemental features should investigate the Blu-ray edition, which includes commentary by Neveldine/Taylor and a feature-length making-of documentary that details the film's rather torturous path to completion. --Paul Gaita