Critics attempt to critique films like Ghost Rider with a straight face, but it never works out. That’s why I’m going to just come out and say it: Ghost Rider is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Sure, it makes next to no sense and has some unbelievably hideous dialogue, but the special effects are top notch and every last person involved is serving up their performance with a big old side of ham. The best bad movies know they’re bad, and that’s why Ghost Rider could end up making some drunken film fests.
The story begins in what must be the 1980’s, although it looks like the 50’s but never mind. Young Johnny Blaze (Long) is part of a stunt motorcycle duo with his father, Barton (Brett Cullen). Upon discovering his father has cancer, he is approached by Mephistopheles (Fonda), who offers a cure for Barton’s illness in exchange for Johnny’s soul. Fast forward to the present and Johnny (Cage) is a highly paid, professional stunt cyclist. He’s about to be revisited by old Mephistopheles, however, because the devil’s son, Blackheart (Bentley), is hell-bent (rimshot) on taking over the world. Johnny discovers he possesses the powers of a Ghost Rider, also known as a bounty hunter for the devil. It is up to him to save humanity.
Writer/Director Mark Steven Johnson’s script is a veritable cliché nightmare. There were at least three instances where I could predict, with near-precision, what the characters were going to say in a given scene. Very little thought is given to fleshing out the story and making us care, but Johnson is surprisingly creative with comic relief and tongue-glued-to-cheek moments.
This brings us to the real purpose for Ghost Rider’s existence: special effects and balls-to-the-wall action. Simply put, the effects are astounding. Flame effects are some of the most difficult in all of film, but here they look completely authentic – at least to the degree that realism should play a part. The action is fast-paced, loud, raucous, and exhilarating.
It also helps to have a solid cast on your side. As skeptical as I was about the casting of Nicolas Cage, his deadpan delivery suits the character of Blaze perfectly. He plays all of the arcs of the character with effectiveness and is clearly having a lot of fun with some of the film’s subtler moments. Eva Mendes, always dressed for maximum cleavage, gets the job done as the love interest/damsel-in-distress. Her interview scene with Cage’s Blaze is beautifully timed comedy. Wes Bentley overacts and hams it up throughout as Blackheart, but, hey, it makes things more fun. The supporting work by Peter Fonda and Sam Elliott is a welcome addition.
Ghost Rider knows its audience and puts on a show. If you just can’t get enough of outlandish comic book flicks, this should tide you over nicely until the next crop arrives this summer. Is Ghost Rider a “good” movie in the traditional sense? Not a chance, but it delivers all anyone could ask for, and that’s without a single beer. Use your best judgment from here.
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Length: 114 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images.
Theatrical Release: February 16, 2007
Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Wes Bentley, Eva Mendes, Matthew Long, Peter Fonda, Donal Logue