August 23, 2008
Set in 2012 this loose remake of Death Race 2000 follows the exploits of Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), a steel worker and former race car driver, who has just been laid off from his job as the plant has closed down. Still, he has a loving wife and a young baby to keep him occupied. That is until his wife is murdered and Jensen is framed for the crime.
He ends up on Terminal Island, which is a privately owned prison as are all prisons now, and is a charming place ruled with an iron fist by Hennessey (a disturbing youthful looking Joan Allen). To keep the money coming in she runs the Death Race, a pay-per-view event in which drivers race over three stages, trying to kill the opponents and still come in first in an attempt to win their freedom. Frankenstein is the most famous driver, and the one that viewers want to see, however he was killed by Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson). The public and other inmates don't know this though, so Hennessey want Jensen to take over the role of Frankenstein and race for her, with promises of being reunited with his child along with his freedom.
First off, let me just say that I am sure there will be many that will hate this movie. Some because it is a remake, some due to it being a Paul W.S. Anderson flick and others because it offers absolutely nothing substantial to the viewing experience. This is all good and well, but I thought it was terrific good fun. It is loud, brash and ultimately incredibly daft and there are flaws aplenty; the drivers never wear helmets, 18 wheel trucks can keep pace with the cars and the cars themselves have enough armour and weaponary to sink a battleship yet they hit incredible speeds. And that is just scratching the surface.
As a piece of entertainment though it was quite excellent, there are fights, great driving scenes, blood, guts and gore throughout the movie. It is an incredibly violent movie rife with cliched characters who say cliched things. Did I care though? Not in the slighest. The movie flew by, rarely letting up to get its breath back. If you want deep plots and complex character development I suggest looking elsewhere, as this offers none of that. However, I thought it was an exciting, if a little predictable, with some humourous moments to help leviate the brutality that runs throughout.
As I said, many will hate it. But just like fast food, it does the trick for a short amount of time and then is forgotten about.
Death Race is popcorn cinema that offers up no pretentions, just plenty of mayhem for your money.
Rating 3 Stars (out of 4)
Review by Jude Felton