| The Red Right Hand
Mark Steven Johnson
Based on the long running (but not particularly well-known) Marvel comic, Ghost Rider is the story of a motorbike stunt-rider who makes a sour deal with the devil [Fonda] to save his Father's life. Naturally, it all goes a bit squiffy and Johnny Blaze is betrayed. The devil explains that he will take his payment and call upon Blaze's services later in life, when he is needed. Abandoning his hot young girlfriend, Blaze hits the open road and sets up a life in the entertainment industry, jumping RV's, football fields, helicopters and all sorts. Before one particular jump, Blaze [Cage] is reunited with his former girly, Roxanne [Mendes], still hot but now a hot TV presenter. She's been hurt but he manages to win her over and a date is arranged. Before he can get there, Blaze is also subject to another reunion, this time with the devil, himself. He explains that he's always been with him, watching him; he goes on to reveal that he has given Blaze a special 'gift' that will transform him so that he may do the devil's bidding as his bounty hunter. Blaze is then struck with a pounding headache that grows, as his head is slowly engulfed in flames. He is now the Ghost Rider and his first assignment is to stop the devil's son, Blackheart [Bentley] from collecting the most evil of contracts ever drawn up. Blaze has other ideas.
There you go. That's as impartial a plot outline as I can handle. Now that I've got that out of the way, I can be honest: This film is so bad! I've only read a few editions of the Ghost Rider comics but I'm not sure that Nicholas Cage was the best choice. He's a very intense actor and I respect a lot of his back-catalogue but this film calls upon his best drugged-up Elvis impressions and after a while it just gets irritating; especially considering his rider counterpart's voice is a weird demonic grunt that removes all trace of Cage's personality. Also, I seem to recall that Johnny Blaze had huge, wavy blond hair! What's with the black glued-on wig that Cage is sporting? Peter Fonda's devil is entertaining enough to start with but soon comes down to no more than a slow walk and an evil whispering - a common Hollywood theory that the devil is a charming chappy, walks with a limp or cane and has a constantly husky voice. The on-screen love interest is Eva Mendes. I don't like Eva Mendes. I don't like her acting style.... or lack thereof; even her tight dresses and low-cut tops started to piss me off. The only parts of the film I found myself enjoying her performance were two separate occasions whilst waiting in a restaurant. She's agreed to meet with Blaze and told him not to be late. In typical film fashion, she looks eager to start with and asks for a small glass of wine but by the end of the evening, she's still alone, drooping slightly and pouring the remainder of the bottle into a glass before necking the lot. The first point is at the start of the scene, in which she looks around cautiously and then pulls out a Magic 8 Ball. She shakes it, frowns and then drops it back down onto the floor. I say 'onto the floor' because you don't see her with a bag or anything, she just pulls it out of nowhere and returns it to nowhere. Completely stupid and utterly moronic. The other point came at the end of the meal as she snatches the bottle from the waiter and empties it. As he begins to walk away she grabs him and asks if she's pretty. The waiter leans in close and simply makes a weird face of indifference and mutters, implying that he's either not impressed or not bothered. It's just funny because she was clearly expecting a positive remark and because I doubt anyone has ever reacted that way to Ms. Mendes.
The film is around 100 minutes and by the time it's over, really feels like nothing has been accomplished. This is such a shame from the guy who directed Daredevil - having said that, he's also the guy who directed Elektra. There's a loose moral system going on here but mostly it's just an excuse for some 'kick ass action sequences.' The only thing really going for this movie are the visual effects. The flaming skull looks pretty convincing most of the time - this coming from the guy who saw the early trailers last year and went on-and-on about how unrealistic and stupid the effects looked. That, however, is it. The flames look good, everything else looks stupid. Blackheart's weird henchmen - who look like they're straight out of that bloody Backstreet Boys video from when I was a kid - are a shining example, supposedly representing elements such as water, wind, earth, etc. There's even a point where the Ghost Rider is disposing of the earth bloke and he gets his attention by shouting, "Hey, dirtbag!" I mean, come on, Arnie must be turning in his cinematic grave... bloody politicians. The whole torrid affair reminded me of bloody Van Helsing.
2nd March 2007
The Scene To Look Out For:
Talky, talky, burny, burny. It's the same crap over-and-over. There's a lot of whining on Mendes part and slurring from Cage followed by ten minutes of riding around on fire, melting things and driving up walls. I can't separate that! If I had to, I would say I was amused when Blaze's bike morphs into this Hell-spawn thing. The screaming-skulled, leather-clad biker reaches out and grips the fuel tank, watching his chopper contort into something evil. Which is completely bollocks because if he touched the fuel tank it would explode. I don't have problems with comic-based films pushing the boundaries of reality but when they blatantly throw-up all over said boundaries you can't help but sit back and think to yourself, "This is dumb."
I'm a bit of a Sam Elliott fan. He's responsible for the opening sequence (outlining the history of the Rider and the ill-fated contract) and a graveyard caretaker, who turns out to be the Rider from all those years ago. You may gasp and think I've given away the plot but trust me, it's blindingly obvious, no one would go, "YOU MEAN... HE'S THE GHOST RIDER WHO STOLE THE CONTRACT AND OUT-RAN THE DEVIL!?" *GASP* "OF COURSE! IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!" If you are... I pity you; outrunning the devil? For crying out loud! He's the fracking devil! He appears and disappears, just because you're astride a flaming horse, doesn't mean he can't just follow you, let alone destroy you. So stupid. Still, it's Elliott... and his part is really tiny and just gives birth to another three minute sequence that feels COMPLETELY unnecessary.
"Forgive me Father for I have sinned; I have sinned a lot"
In A Few Words:
"If as much time had been spent on the characters and the script as the SFX, then an all-round better film would have been made"