Nick Cage's career is pretty much a roller coaster ride. He can surround one good performance with a dozen or so poor ones better than anyone. His role choices are widely known - he's bankrupt and needs the money.


That's probably why he was so believable in "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans"; he was easily identifiable with the character. However, I have widely criticized his casting as an action hero such as he was in "National Treasure".


So in 2007, when he was cast as Johnny Blaze in "Ghost Rider" I was put off. Moreover, I was put off with good reason once the movie started... it was dull and dumb. Well, polished, but dull and dumb. Rumor has it that it was so dull and dumb, Nick Cage was dissatisfied with it. But he did it because, well, he needed the money.

But "Ghost Rider" went on to accidentally make $228 million worldwide on a $110 million budget. Fans of the Marvel Comic character fell for it - though they didn't particularly like it. The generally consensus was that the movie version was just to neat and pretty.


With the classic sweep of the Hollywood wand, out with director Mark Steven Johnson and in with co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. You'll remember them from the uber-edgy "Crank", "Crank - High Voltage" and "Gamer" films. The powers that be, decided that what Ghost Rider needed was edginess.


This - and some money - was apparently enough to get Cage back in the saddle as the flame-belching, motorcycle riding devil tool. Money was apparently plentiful as also cast as Ciarin Hinds, Idris Elba and Christopher Lambert - not a bad support cast. To wit I can say that "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is a decided improvment over the first one.


It finds Blaze (Cage) hiding out in Hungary staying as far away from the devil as he can. Remember, his bad deal with the devil is what put him in this eternal damnation thing in the first place! While hiding out, he is approched by a guy named Moreau (Elba) who want's Blaze to do a favor in exchange for relief from eternal damnation. This sounds oddly familiar with the deal that got Blaze burning for all eternity in the first place. Yet he agrees.

He is to track down a boy named Danny (Fergus Riordan) and his mother (Violante Placido) and save them from the devil (Ciarin Hinds) before the devil uses the boy as as way to take human form. Inexchange, Moreau and his Monk friends will lift the curse on Blaze.


But first Blaze has to deal with the devil and his many minions who are all out to stop him. That's really all you need to know as the rest of the film is one big pyrotechnics production with smatterings of dead-as-doornails quips delivered as scrambled as a dozen USPS delivered eggs.


However, it is edgy and the action - unlike the first one - is pretty much non-stop.


The big plus is Ciarin Hinds as the devil, he clearly enjoyed himself and may find himself cast in similar roles in the future. Elba wasn't bad and it was nice to see Lambert getting

some sort of work. But Cage is once again miscast, even though he is a fan of the comic book. And the writing is that of a 15-year old. In fact I might have just insulted 15-year olds!


"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is, after all is said and done, only moderately better than the first. The first hour of fiery action is amusing, however, you will have had enough by the last reel and yearning for a story - or at least an ending.   -- GEOFF BURTON