Death Race: the review
Welcome to Death Race. A world (in the near future) that is much like the Running Man in that criminals get a chance to regain their freedom by taking part in a friendly little game of: Last one not dead...wins! Does this sound familiar, because it should do. It is a remake of the cult classic Death Race 2000 and Hollywood saw fit to reintroduce it to the latest generation of gore hunters. This seemed like a good idea at first as it is known for mindless violence and the younger generation all go for that kind of storytelling. Also the original movie (funnily enough) was based in the "near future"; the year 2000 in fact. Since the year 2000 has been and gone and most of us do not subscribe to "death races" you might imagine that they would set the remake at about 2030. Well, they didn't. Paul W.S. Anderson (in his wisdom) set the film in 2012, allowing it to have a 4 year shelf life. This is a bit silly isn't it? Are you telling me that by 2018 some bright spark in a studio will come up with the idea of remaking the remake? I hope not.
Sadly I never got to see the Original film (since I was merely a foetus then). Strangely the idea seemed too stupid to me, so I never even watched it on television. Apparently that was the initial appeal. Nevertheless I have made sure I attended a screening so that it may "open my eyes" as it were. So, silly stick in hand, (don't ask) I sat down for 104 minutes of Jason Statham grunting like a mating boar whilst flexing his most manly of muscles. Ahem.
I don't think I need to go through the synopsis do I? Surely you know the basic storyline or you wouldn't be reading this review. Oh alright, for the thickies amongst us: Jason Statham plays Jensen Ames. A man wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder who conveniently gets sent to Terminal Island (a prison run by a bland Joan Allen) and subsequently replaces the mysterious Frankenstein (a legendary Death Race racer). Along the way he meets an inmate who is not an inmate (played by the ever-gruff voice of Ian McShane), Tyrese Gibson (a possiblly gay rival racer) and a bunch of other mean-guy looking baddies.
Jensen is told that to earn his freedom (and the chance to see his daughter again) he has to win the next race (5 to win usually, but the original "Frankenstein" won 4 already). The actual race itself is split into 3 events. So he actually has to win 3 races, not 1. Personally I just accept the silliness and decide to let it slip. It seems that each death race is basically Mario Kart with blood. I'm not kidding. The racers drive around a track at high speed, trying to ram each other off the "road" and go over "pickups" that could be defensive, offensive or suicide, depending how unlucky you are. It's a lot of fun watching each of the races, although I imagine for those of you sufferers of motion sickness, it might be best to avoid (due to extreme usage of shaky-cam).
You may think that since it being a tough manly prison, the movie would only consist of manly type men. Well, you'd be wrong because on each death race a coach load of "hot totty" arrives as navigators. We are told that these bouncing females are in fact prisoners from a women's prison. Okay, I know that I promised I would let a lot slide on Death Race, but this is taking silly to the extremes. They expect us to believe that a women's prison holds model like females with tight tops who seem to have gotten hold of baby oil recently? I don't think so. Don't get me wrong a realistic female prisoner wouldn't have been much fun. I could just imagine Statham's navigator as a 400lb woman named Mable who crushed her late husband to death in the throws of passion. Although, that might've worked. Despite my protestations, Natalie Martinez (as Statham's navigator) was there to stay and she does her job in a "I'm sexy, look at me talk" kind of way.
The whole film reminds you of Mad Max, but more silly and with a lot more humour. I like the extra touches to the movie. Statham's wife is an overly optimistic woman who basically deserves to die (just so we can laugh at the irony). Despite the initial film quickly turning into a gayfest it seems that the injection of 2 women may save it....but only just. Some of the script is just dire with one of the mechanics looking at the back of a car spilling some yellow goop-like substance and quickly announcing: "look out! Oil". Yes we know it's oil Mr "I-need-to-cut-down-on-the-Oatmeal"!
Put simply it is a clone of other movies. That is not to say it is bad. The scene that genuinely reminds you of the Thunder Road scene in Grease is ultimately better and somehow Statham plays his situation better and less cheesier than Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man. I just wish that Ian McShane had a larger part in it. Nevertheless it is a solid fun film and completely packed with action. Go watch it. And like the Yorkie advert: It's not for girls! I know that will make most females reading this go mad and watch the movie to prove a point, but that is my point. This movie will appeal to gore hunters, car lovers, silly film goers and yes...the next generation of Death Race fans.
Rating: 4 out 5