Nick Cage’s B-Movie Glory

On this Oscar weekend, it is hard to think about modern-day Hollywood without hanging your head. It’s natural to howl at the moon, bemoaning a time when the industry really loved the institution of film. It’s easy to remember Brando and Bogart, Grant and Olivier and wonder what we did to deserve Nicholas Cage. But then again, it’s not that hard to figure why they just can’t seem to keep Cage off the silver screen.

By all conventional critical analyses, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is wretched; It is startling that a sequel to the horrific first Ghost Rider was ever even made. But after laboring through J. Edgar and The Iron Lady and seeing what happens when films forget that they are made to entertain, it’s clear that Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance really ain’t so bad after all.

In the second installment of the Ghost Rider series, Nick Cage gives an enthralling performance – one part young Jack Nicholson on speed mixed to perfection with sociopathic attempts at empathy. The film is funnier than the first – this time some of the humor is actually intentional – and the addition of the Johnny Blaze as mentor is awesomely horrible. The sequel is much like the first Ghost Rider (i.e. short on plot and heavy on CGI) but the muse spoke to directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and told them they could sell more tickets in 3D. And honestly, while the script might not scratch your itchy intellect, the film will do the one thing it set out to do: entertain.

Fire, motorcycles and whips all look great in three dimensions and the movie does not shy away from gimmicky 3D. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance knows what it is – a glorified B-Movie – and delivers just that in a ferocious cheese ball of fury.

I’m not usually the type that can sit down and watch Commando or a Claude van Damme flick. I’m enamored by film that can change you, that can really make you look at life differently. But I must admit: there is something about Nick Cage that intrigues the hell out of me. Sure, he is not going to dive into the inner-workings of the protagonist, not going to show us what really makes the character tick. But only a fool would cast Cage in a role like that.

No, the beauty of Nick Cage is that he always plays Nick Cage and it just so happens that Nick Cage is one crazy and captivating motherfucker. Whether he is Terence McDonagh in The Bad Lieutenant or Behmen in Season of the Witch, he’s always the same – a hopped-up maniac, living life between a whispered growl and a skull-shattering scream. And though the character he portrays is not always believable (exhibit A: Eddie from Deadfall), Cage steals any scene he’s in. I don’t know if it’s his shifty eyes, his bouncy hair or his erratic demeanor, but it is impossible to ignore Nicholas Cage. He’s like a pot of boiling Brussels sprouts filled to the brim – pungent and slightly distasteful, but something you have to watch because it always might boil over.

He’s a man too big for TV, too big for film, maybe even too big for the stage. To truly capture his manic, snow-blowing madness, Nick Cage will probably need his own reality television program. I’m sure it would not be pleasant or intellectual, but I know I’d watch.

But until that inevitability occurs, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a good alternative. It is cheesy, trashy and definitely worth the price of admission.

Joey Bien-Kahn has served as sports and columns editor for City on a Hill Press for the last year, winning third place in the California College Media Association for his feature article on Prop 19. J more


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