After selling his soul to the devil (Peter Fonda) in a bid to save his father's life, stunt driver Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) lives a life of reckless abandon in Ghost Rider (PG-13 for horror violence), knowing that someday doom awaits him when Mephistopheles comes to collect. But when old Scratch finally does return, he doesn't want to take Johnny to hell; he wants him to be his personal bounty hunter.
From that day forward Blaze has no choice but to spend his nights as Ghost Rider, tracking down the Devil's traitorous son Blackheart and the three Nephilim that work for him (theologically, this film is all over the map).
When the alter ego in a superhero movie is named Johnny Blaze, audiences should be able to guess what they're going to get-it's not good, but in its own B-rate way, it is entertaining. Johnny Blaze displays none of Batman's refined ferocity nor any of Spidey's innocent angst. He is merely a cartoon creation whose emotions run about as deep as pen ink.
Cage brings a bit of Elvis, a bit of Easy Rider, and a lot of Evel Knievel to the role. As Blaze's love interest, the constant close-ups on her low-cut costumes suggest Eva Mendes was cast more for her physical attributes than her professional ones, but even this exaggeration fits the spirit of the movie. Mendes looks more like a drawing than a real woman.
Those who take superheroes seriously aren't likely to enjoy a film that retards the progress of their favorite genre. But for the rest of us, this strange amalgamation of Texas Ranger lore, NASCAR bravado, and the-Devil-and-Daniel-Webster trickery keeps the campy fun revving just enough that you can't completely hate it.
Too bad Ghost Rider shoots itself in the foot with a smattering of obscenities and a provocatively attired damsel in distress that make it inappropriate for the very preteen male audience most likely to enjoy it.