Two hyperactive directors are given a limp script for a comic-book property that's never been given its due on the big screen, and the result is the almost-outrageous, but still-dead-in-the-water sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. While there are a few moments of grand Nic Cage crazy to be found here -- and yes, Crank filmmakers Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine do indeed get Ghost Rider to piss fire -- these over-the-top moments are jarringly inserted into what is otherwise a very forgettable package. One thing that can be said about Spirit of Vengeance is that at least it's not the steaming turd that was Mark Steven Johnson's first movie, which focused on Cage's jelly-bean-eating stunt rider who moonlights as a satanic flaming henchman, but that's not saying much.
The film opens as an alcoholic monk named Moreau (Idris Elba) fails to protect a young child from being kidnapped by a Kurt Russell look-alike (Johnny Whitworth), whose plan is to hand the boy over to the devil (Ciarán Hinds) to use as a new human vessel. Conveniently, Johnny Blaze (Cage) just so happens to be hiding out nearby, so Moreau recruits him in return for relieving him of the curse that turns him into a flaming-monster biker attracted to the evil of all men. Italian stunner Violante Placido joins in on the fun as the child's mother and the film's main source of heavily made-up eye candy.
At the heart of the movie's troubles is the tone, which bounces irregularly between mediocre "get/protect that boy" action to poorly animated sequences to severe in-your-face moments of Crank-styled craziness plopped into the picture for no apparent reason. The same goes for Cage's acting, which only gets really juicy in a couple of bravura moments, but otherwise settles for dry quirk the rest of the time. There's a simmering mania underneath the surface of the picture that you wish would just be unleashed, but not if it means another extreme motorcycle-riding montage. Still, unabashed lovers of crummy cinema might enjoy the flick, as will anyone who ever gave the first film a pass, but as it is now, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is in dire need of more Red Bull -- and maybe Jason Statham.