May 19, 2007 -- I stayed away from this film until it got to the cheaper mid and second run theaters because the reviews were not good, but this is my kind of film (I liked “Constantine,” “Spawn,” “Bless the Child” and even “Highway to Hell”), so I finally went to see it, and was glad I did. It isn't as bad as some claim it is. Sure, it's cheesy, the special effects aren't that great, and the story is inconsistent, but it has a talented cast and some good action scenes. Call it a guilty pleasure for me, but I'd watch it again sometime. I like movies about redemption, and that's what this film is all about.
Topping the cast is Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a daredevil motorcycle rider (modeled after Evel Kneivel) who makes a deal with the demon Mephistopheles (played by Peter Fonda of “Ulee's Gold”) to save his father's life. In return, he is forced to do the bidding of Mephistopheles, collecting on old debts and becoming a bounty hunter. His job is to deal with the demonic enemies of Mephistopheles. When not taking on his deadly, flaming ghost rider personae, Blaze travels around the country performing daring motorcycle leaps over long distances. At one such stunt, he meets an old flame, Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes of “Hitch”), a girl he was forced to leave years before because of his curse.
Soon after Blaze and Roxanne meet, Mephistopheles returns to collect on Blaze's debt. He promises to give Blaze his soul back if he will defeat a collection of demons, led by Blackheart (Wes Bentley of “The Four Feathers”), who are trying to take over the world. Blackheart is the son of Mephistopheles, by the way. Bentley, while an adequate actor, is a wimpy-looking villain. Blaze needs to stop the demons before they get their hands on a contract for the souls of an entire Texas haunted town (I know, hard to believe anybody from Texas would sell their soul for power). This contract will make Blackheart powerful enough to overthrow his father and make earth into a living hell.
The movie has the look and feel of a western. The final showdown is in a ghost town in the desert. Veteran actor Sam Elliot of “We Were Soldiers,” handles the narration with his western-sounding drawl, and also plays a key role in the movie, that of the Caretaker, a kind of mentor for Blaze. Elliot looks and sounds like a cowboy, and even rides a horse in the film. All this gives the movie a distinctly archetypal western quality. The showdown between Blaze and Blackheart in the old desert ghost town is very reminiscent of an old western showdown.
This is a stylish film that takes some time to explore its characters. On the other hand, the romance between Blaze and his old flame, Roxanne Simpson, never goes anywhere. Mendes seems to be cast in the film mainly to take advantage of her cleavage (and I'm not complaining, just saying), although she does get to fire a gun in one scene. Then there is the sidekick character of Mack (Donal Logue of “Zodiac”) that doesn't go anywhere, either. He mainly frets and fusses like an old wife. It is really Cage and Elliot who provide the main reasons for seeing this film. Cage and Elliot are very macho, and Cage gets to show off his abs (Hey, I would too if I had any. Cage must work out a lot). More scenes with Elliot would have been better. He takes over every scene he's in. If you are into this kind of film, it is at least worth a DVD rental to check it out. It rates a C+.
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