Posts Tagged ‘ Idris Elba ’

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

The main shortcoming of Ghost Rider Spirit of  Vengeance is Not-Enough-Ghost-Rider. Neveldine/Taylor went and put all kinds of thought into the Rider’s look, feel, motion and even sound – then doled his appearances out sparingly like the withholding teases they usually aren’t.

You might remember a documentary by NevTay on the effects of bafflingly badly engineered Chinese poison on psychotic British hitmen with troubled childhoods and gorgeous full-baked Californian girlfriends.

Crank was one of those few movies I would actually compare to a rollercoaster ride. It started off all Nice’n’Easy from Clairol, with post-human badass Chev Chelios waking up to find himself on the way to dead – stumbling around his apartment in real-life slow-motion as the “Chinese shit” set in, stopping his heart or whatever. Then Chev gets in his (badass) car and sets off to exact revenge on the overgrown Latin babyman, Ricky Verona, who injected him full of what turns out to be basically diabetes, from what I could tell.

But as he’s driving, his body is shutting down. That is until he puts the hammer down and discovers that the only thing that’ll keep his heart pumping is pure, undiluted adrenaline. This is the part where the rollercoaster reaches its apex and you get your first glimpse over the edge. What follows is 90 minutes of sheer, unadulterated pandemonium. It’s…Glorious.

That’s the strength of N/T. All-go-no-quit-never-say-die-Action. They shoot action movies like Ben & Jerry make ice cream – thick and fast. So why isn’t there more of it in Spirit of Vengeance?

The first time we see Nicholas Cage he’s shirtless and looks like he just got out of bed yet is already wearing leather pants. So far so good then. Since we last saw him Johnny Blaze has decided to go Bruce Banner and try to contain his malefic alter-ego.

Enter Idris Elba (best known as Stringer Bell in the definition of television – The Wire). He plays a French monk or something. Doesn’t matter – point is, Anthony Stewart Head (Giles) is dead and he needs Johnny Blaze’s help. More specifically, he needs Blaze to Ghost-Out and rescue the Anti-Christ from Lucifer. Pretty standard day for Cage thus far.

It’s an awesome movie mired in a more level-headed one. Too often it holds back when it should go full retard, especially when you consider who they’ve got at the helm. In one scene Cage does his best Bad Lieutenant parody while interrogating some hapless criminal at his own party and struggling to contain the Rider, who is literally bursting to get out and lay the smackdown on this den of inequity.

It’s interesting, because they depict the Rider almost like an addiction – something Blaze feels like he has to hold at bay but is at the same time desperate to release. It’s one of those scenes where you Need all present to commit entirely in order to break the wall of inanity – but where N/T would usually indulge the impulse to caricature, here they restrained themselves for no good reason. Thankfully, the same can’t be said for the Ghost Rider‘s scenes.

The first time we see the Rider is equal parts bewildering and transfixing. He arrives like a meteor, the ominous drone of his motorcycle echoing throughout the scene as he closes distance. When he finally lands, he doesn’t immediately attack – he takes a moment to himself, relishing his being before he sets about his work. In action, the Rider is a force of nature – utterly unstoppable and brazenly primal. He revels in the mayhem he causes – which makes me enjoy it all the more.

Everything about the Ghost Rider feels authentic. The way his leather jacket bubbles beneath the flames of his skull, the lightning-fast and creepily staccato way he moves (well he Is a skeleton), the primitive, ape-like way he yells, fights and even carries himself and the pitiless Penance Stare he uses, with great bliss, to “burn the souls” of his victims. Neveldine/Taylor clearly put an incredible amount of work into making the Rider feel like a tangible and extremely intimidating entity on screen, down to the jarring and tense rock music that accompanies his rampage.

Where are my manners? Ciaran Hinds is effortlessly menacing as, you guessed it, The Devil. Christopher Lambert is pointless as obviously-sinister monk Methodius. Johnny Whitworth is enthusiastic but a little out of his comfort zone as kidnapper turned darkness generating decay monster Blackout. Fergus Riordan and Violante Placido do ok as Anti-Christ and mom – it was good to see a kid take some initiative for once and not just be a screaming crash-test dummy for Cage to rescue. And Idris Elba, currently the most underrated actor in Hollywood, is great to watch despite the silly French accent.

But like all his other movies, this is a Cage film. Some real effort was put into making Spirit of Vengeance feel fresh, unusual and genuine, it’s just too bad they had to try and cage the Cage.