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Ten Word or Less Review: Drag me to Hell.

“Scratching at the door!”  If Nic Cage ever gets some kind of lifetime achievement award, a dubious gesture at this point, his magnificent line reading of that phrase from this garbage movie should be the grand finale when they give a career montage of his peak moments as an actor.  It’s right up there with that bee scene from his asinine remake of The Wicker Man in terms of pure Cage.  Cage is so tweaked saying it he could pass himself off as a meth head riding a fierce high or suffering from a catastrophic case of withdraw.  If all of Spirit of Vengeance was as delightfully cracked as that line reading Marvel would have a true camp classic.  But it isn’t and they don’t.

One of the more dubious sequels in recent years, the first Ghost Rider effort was one of those embarrassing pseudo successes for which everyone involved feels shame.  The people who made it looked like assholes and the people who showed up and got ripped off feel like suckers.  To mount a sequel to a film so universally branded a loser is kind of ballsy in its own way.  You basically pissed on everyone the first time through so now you’re asking them to come back again and this time you’re promising not to piss on them.  But piss on you they do.  This Rider is really not much more than a straight to DVD effort with an inflated FX budget and a fading box office power getting one more payday before the IRS takes it away.

Nic Cage brings the tweak as he’s contractually obligated to do.  He’s bugged to the hilt, trying desperately to make this Rider flick more than the running joke of the Marvel universe, but no matter how crackhead he goes, he can’t save this crap, because it’s crap.  With its reduced budget and Eastern Europe locals, Vengeance has all the earmarks of being just a tossed off action movie usually reserved for the likes of Wesley Snipes.  The whole movie takes place in abandoned buildings, rock quarries, traffic free highways and ancient ruins, basically all things with no bystanders and available on the cheap.

Neveldine and Taylor, the genius/moron directing duo who bear the responsibility for Crank, Jason Statham’s finest hour, were brought on to hopefully breathe some misfit attitude into the proceedings.  For the first 30-40 minutes it feels like they might pull it off.  Of course there’s Cage, but there’s also a go for broke sequence with the rider turning a massive piece of excavation equipment into a flaming arm of death.  A few moments pepper things which lead the viewer to hope that things will really go for broke when they need to.  The Rider pisses fire and spits bullets.  But these bits are fleeting  and the things just falls to pieces.  After a while the it has settled into the tired, ragged ass plot about a lame Satan (Cirian Hinds), his demon offspring and a henchmen who makes things rot when he touches stuff.  I know this particular Marvel character doesn’t come with a rogues gallery of antagonist, but Rot Guy?  Who the fuck thought that up?  Was Rot Guy in the comics?  Why would a guy with a flaming skull and a chopper from Hell be the least bit intimidated by Rot Guy?

The spiraling decline of Nic Cage continues on unchecked.  With the IRS after him and his castles the once mighty and unlikely box office star continues to grasp at anything with a paycheck attached.  Spirit of Vengeance could have been a sick, cracked exercise in genre mayhem, but it’s just a pile.  If you want to see Cage antagonize Satan in 3D to much better effect go find a copy of Drive Angry.  It’s damn near the same movie except it doesn’t blow.


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