Five years after his last ride, Nicolas Cage’s flame-faced vigilante is back in a new heavy-metal fable about a mother (Violante Placido) and child (Fergus Riordan) on the run from the devil (Ciarán Hinds). If captured, the kid will become a superpowered vessel for evil on earth, and nobody — not the wine-guzzling French mercenary played by Idris Elba, and certainly not the accursed biker-cum-demon Johnny Blaze (Cage) — wants that to happen.
Like the first Ghost Rider movie, this one burns plenty of rubber trying to swerve around plot holes and thinly written characters. As a showcase for random acts of badassery, the movie has its moments, like when the Ghost Rider pees fire or eats a flurry of bullets and pukes them back in a molten stream. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the team behind the raucously entertaining Crank movies, clearly set out to push the series — and its star — to new heights of biker-gang lunacy. But most of the movie’s action-horror set pieces play like lame Gwar music-video outtakes, and Cage’s signature mix of irony and off-the-rails mugging only works when you can see the actor’s face. In Ghost Rider form, his character is just a skeletal automaton with neither a tongue nor a cheek to put it in. D+