Miles on Movies

Ghost Rider

reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

Nicholas Cage revels in this schlock camp exercise in Bike Porn with a lowbrow cultural motif. It has moments of humor and also much painfully obvious dialogue. Based on a comic book, it feels it. So it is essentially a cartoon for kids of all ages. If you’re looking for a mindless, popcorn mixed genre thriller, this may provide some amusement. If you’re a religious watcher of OCC Bikes, then the loving close-ups of tail pipes and wheel assemblies may give you pleasure.

There are many dubious demonological claims, which serve as tenuous scaffolding for your standard thriller / action fight scenes. Nice use of the four elements as identities for the son of Mephistopheles and his sidekicks. I did like the classic iconography of the crossroads, where deals with the Devil always seem to be made.

Do stadium crowds thrill at daredevil motorcyclists jumping over semi-trucks and whatnot? I suppose. Are these stunt men for the masses heroes? Perhaps. But the world of Monster Trucks and stadium shows is foreign to me and as shown here seems more cliché than heightened reality.

Nick, via his character Johnny Blaze, does his best to channel Evel Knievel and the “King”. The latter pretty much as he did in David Lynch’s  “Wild At Heart” (1990). Whatever happened to the fine actor who appeared in “Birdie”? Sam Elliot does his crusty cowboy loner bit, spitting chaw juice and all. Eva Mendes plays the love interest bombshell with entertaining skintight dresses. Mark Steven Johnson writes and directs another flawed comic book adaptation. (“Daredevil”, Executive Producer of “Elektra”)

There is no actual mention of the socioeconomic tensions involved when a honky Texas ranch boy is in love with a hot Latina in what appears to be a mythic era of Western small town utopia. The ironic reversal being that her (never seen) father considers the boyfriend’s white trash carny status not good enough for his daughter. Not that any father, no matter his background, wouldn’t. Perhaps the racial divide between Mexican-Americans and the dominant white culture of Texas has been erased. I haven’t been to the State where I was born, and where my mother was raised, in over thirty years. But I doubt those divisions have been erased in the way this film implies. Ojala that they were.

This has all the elements of a Disney ride: superficial meaning, a few thrills, and denatured cultural imperialism.

Other than the tie-in at the end to the song “Ghost Riders In The Sky”, I don’t know why his hero/anti-hero character isn’t called  “Flaming Skull Rider”. If you’re into fluff, this might work for you.

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