NEW YORK –– Not content with merely using a flaming motorcycle to fight Satan, “Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance” (Columbia) –– the sequel to the 2007 comic book-based cult hit “Ghost Rider” –– also piles on loopy Catholic imagery in the form of a monk who promises to lift a demonic curse.
It’s an excuse for a noisier, 3-D version of the earlier film, likely to appeal only to the devoted fans of sardonic anti-hero Johnny Blaze, portrayed once again by Nicolas Cage. Hey, it’s what Johnny does, you know.
The former motorcycle stuntman is never content with his periodic transformations into a skeleton that spits fire and uses a chain as a lariat; such was Satan’s curse in exchange for a false promise to save the life of Johnny’s father. But in his fire-breathing state, Johnny also serves, ironically, as a sort of Old Testament moral force.
Co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and screenwriters Scott M. Gimple and Seth Hoffman set the story eight years after the first installment, with gloomy Johnny hiding out in Eastern Europe.
Moreau (Idris Elba), a French monk in a leather jacket from, need it be said, an unnamed monastic order (no avuncular Irish priests in this neck of the woods), promises to nullify Johnny’s affliction if Johnny will rescue Danny (Fergus Riordan) from You-Know-Who.
Danny is the son of Roark (Ciaran Hinds), the earthly form of Satan, who has limited powers in the flesh. If our hero doesn’t get him out of the clutches of Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth), an international gun-runner in the devil’s employ, the implication is that the sulfurous one will soon be roaming the earth with the Antichrist in tow.
This, of course, seems like a good deal to Johnny, so he’s off to the big showdown.
The only thing that could make all this rigmarole worse, given the current pop mania for the subject, would have been an exorcism scene.
The film contains constant hand-to-hand and gun violence, as well as fleeting crass and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 –– parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.