The Spirit marks Mr. Miller's first solo effort as a director, and his bold visual style is not well served by his clumsiness as a cinematic storyteller. The movie seems to be trying to combine a knowing, winking sense of pop-culture history with an embrace of the more soulful aspects of that history, but the result is a talky, pretentious stew of film noir poses and crime-fighter cliches.
Mr. Jackson and Ms. Johansson at least seem to enjoy themselves, which is their prerogative since they are the villains. Gabriel Macht, who plays the fedora-wearing, skirt-chasing, undead hero (a former policeman brought mysteriously back to life as a vigilante), works hard to give off an air of hard-boiled insouciance. Unfortunately whatever natural charisma he may possess is disguised by his hat, his mask and the murky shadows of the mise-en-scene.