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Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance



That’s especially true for Spirit, considering it was directed by the acquired-taste tag team of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who gave the world such amped-up, anti-establishment thrillers as Gamer, Crank and its now-immortal Crank: High Voltage. By (thankfully) replacing non-returning director Mark Steven Johnson, Neveldine/Taylor automatically make this follow-up cooler. They get their mitts dirty, making the handheld action scenes more exciting.

The downside is that chapter two makes much less sense. In fact, it barely makes a lick of sense, even within the context of a movie about a walking, talking skeleton who rides a motorcycle, who sucks souls and whose head acts like a Zippo stuck in the “on” position. He also — this is new — pisses fire as if his genitalia were a flamethrower.

So, yes, this Spirit carries Neveldine/Taylor's in-your-face-muthafukka style, especially in the first half when the movie just ambles about, like a drunk stepping off the barstool and trying to find his footing. It never quite does, even with the barest of premises: Save a kid (Fergus Riordan, Fragile) from monks following the devil's orders to snatch him.

Violante Placido (so good, so nude in The American) is the boy's mom who's mighty suspicious of Ghost Rider; Idris Elba (Prometheus, Thor) plays Moreau, a renegade priest who helps our cyclin' superhero out. Both actors are much better than the material allows, especially Elba (see: Luther — no, really, you've gotta see Luther).

And Cage? He’s still stuck in the same gear of crazy as Drive Angry. Depending on your tolerance of him, that can be a plus or a minus.

The winks to the audience help, but that's no substitute for a lucid piece of supernatural storytelling — something Marvel has done continuously for the horror hero since his 1972 debut. But since Neveldine/Taylor didn't write the film as well, it feels like their sensibilities have been neutered.

Sony's double-disc Blu-ray offers both the flat and 3-D versions of the film, plus a featurette on the movie's 3-D process that's actually in 3-D itself (provided you have shelled out for that kind of TV). A six-part documentary covers all aspects of Spirit of Vengeance's making, with the most interesting part dealing with the theatrical release, particularly Neveldine/Taylor having to combat Comic-Con audiences who were predisposed to hating it before seeing a single frame.

The directors won that notoriously fickle crowd over with a special teaser ending with the tagline, "Fucking Your Shit Up in 3D." If only the end result bore more of that attitude. —Rod Lott

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