Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, Kill!

Death Race

Release: 08.22.2008

Rated R
1 hour, 29 minutes

Matinee ($$$)


Jensen Ames (Jason Statham, Cellular) is a steel-working man... for about two minutes of Death Race. See, it's the future, and the good ol' US of A has gone to shit; jobs are scarce, money is tight and morals are loose. Prisons, now run by corporations, have instituted the Death Race to entertain the tired masses and control the burgeoning convict count.

In the history of bad days, Ames loses his job and he's framed for the murder of his wife. The ex-driver finds himself imprisoned, conveniently, under warden Hennessey (Joan Allen, Face/Off). The ice queen of the profitable road rage offers Ames his freedom by taking up the mantle of Frankenstein, a fan-favorite driver who died just one win shy of his liberation.

Based on the 70's exploitation classic Death Race 2000, this update only minimally resembles its original counterpart. As in the Roger Corman version, the characters Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson, 2 Fast 2 Furious) remain prominent. However, the Death Race of old revolved around killing bystanders during a cross-country race on the open road, not attacking other people on a closed track.

All the characters follow a one-track emotion. Statham plays Ames-Frankenstein as perpetually pissed for the bulk of the film, a man hellbent on vengeance. Allen's Hennesseey is the ultimate cold-hearted bitch. Coach (Ian McShane, Sexy Beast) is plain old tired. The script goal was not to show characters' growth; it was to repeatedly throw obstacles in their way as they ran around in circles.

Dirty Undies
Cars crash, cars explode and people caught in the open get their asses handed to them - assuming enough pieces of their ass can be found in the aftermath. The blazing guns, jets of smoke and repetitive colliding cars get a bit tiresome, but writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) infuses a few surprises to shake off the boredom.

Statham has only a couple of scenes where he's not crammed into the driver's seat, but spends very few of those kicking ass. My favorite moment is his final encounter with opponent Panchenko (Max Ryan, Kiss of the Dragon), which features the film's best death.

There's an all too-brief body shot, cheek included, of Statham. Even though the drivers have female navigators, Anderson completely stumbles in the gratuitous-flesh department. Seriously, the still below is as steamy as Death Race gets:

Even during a race to the death, there should always be time for a conjugal visit, especially from a hottie like Natalie Martinez.

The Money Shot

If you ponied up the money to see
Death Race in the first place, you could give a crap less about emotion and story development as long as the kills are violent and the explosions are loud. Death Race has a decent body count and explosions aplenty. Even so, the drab grayscale world of the future wears thin. Its engine may roar, but Death Race doesn't have the power to take home the prize.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. I watched this. Wasn't impressed. A nice diversion though. Makes me want to see the original (which I haven't seen yet).

  2. I wished it had a bit more 'umph' to it. It's one of those where the killing and explosions numb you quickly.

    I think you can only get so excited watching 2-3 cars ride around in circles.

    I expected no more than that, so I can't complain.

  3. Why they helm remakes that barely have anything to do with their superior originals I'll never know.

  4. It's Hollywood, why they do most of what they do always baffles me.