In his epic poem Divine Comedy, Dante describes Hell as nine concentric circles of increasing suffering, in which unrepentant sinners are condemned to punishments that fit their crimes.
You don’t have to immerse yourself in 14th century literature to vicariously experience torment: any screening of Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance 3D will plunge you headfirst into the fiery pits of despair.
Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who previously made Crank starring Jason Statham, this action-driven sequel bludgeons the senses with an orgy of mindless violence and rapid-fire edits that must rank as the cinematic equivalent of damnation.
A miasma of digital effects and Nicolas Cage’s deranged theatrics as Beelzebub’s skull-headed messenger threaten to turn bemusement into a migraine, exacerbated by David Sardy’s growling, cacophonous score.
The only method in Cage’s wide-eyed on-screen madness is commanding a rumoured seven million dollar fee to squeeze back into his motorcycle leathers as anti-hero Johnny Blaze.
To borrow from Dante’s verse, as he shepherds us through the gates of the underworld: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Johnny Blaze (Cage) is wrestling with the foolishness of his Faustian pact that has condemned him to walk the Earth as Ghost Rider, extracting the blackened souls of the wicked astride his mighty Hell Cycle.
He goes into self-imposed exile until warrior monk Moreau (Idris Elba) asks for help to protect a gifted child called Danny (Fergus Riordan) and his guardian Nadya (Violante Placido), who are on the run from the demonic Roarke (Ciaran Hinds).
“Bring us the boy and we will lift this curse,” promises Moreau, who needs Johnny to deliver the child to a monastery overseen by brother Methodius (Christopher Lambert).
Johnny screeches to the rescue, clashing with Roarke’s henchman Ray (Johnny Whitworth), who has been blessed with the destructive powers of decay.
In the process, the cursed rider becomes a father figure to the boy, sparking memories of his tragic past.
Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance 3D doesn’t make any obvious concessions to the eye-popping format.
Action sequences, when we can make sense of the dizzying blur, look flat, particularly an explosive showdown in a construction yard that culminates in Johnny commandeering a giant crane and transforming the hulking contraption into flaming, twisted metal.
Fittingly, Cage is given free reign to whoop and cackle like a demon possessed but he can only spit so many ludicrous snatches of dialogue (“I got it. You’re the Devil’s baby mom!”) before any intentional hilarity wears painfully thin.
The father-son relationship, which could have provided an emotional anchor amidst the mayhem, is sketched in broad strokes and supporting characters barely register above the blitzkrieg.
“It doesn’t matter how fast you run. Some demons you just can’t escape,” Johnny threatens us in voiceover.
Run as fast as you can from Ghost Rider and don’t look back.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 2/10
Released: February 17 (UK & Ireland), 95 mins