The Asylum’s Death Racers – a review
After watching (and enjoying) Death Race (starring Jason Statham), I thought it only fitting to review its mockbuster (courtesy of The Asylum). Once again this studio have managed to knock out a budget movie with a similar name to a present release (mainly due to excessive time constraints). So how does the budget movie Death Racers match up to the "Hollywood Blockbuster" Death Race? Can a couple of highly controversial rappers, a bloke who (with a bad Mexican accent) looks like Ritchie Neville (from that awful boy band "Five") and a couple of girls who look they moonlight as Pussycat Dolls match up to the "heavyweights" of Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane and er...Tyrese Gibson?
Okay, so Tyrese Gibson could never (in a month of Sundays) truly be considered a heavyweight. Nevertheless the similarities in titles forces you to consider how similar they are in plot (both being remakes / reimaginings of the original Death Race 2000). Unfortunately though, the similarities truly end with the title and so this comparative review can be no more. Death Racers has very little actual racing and as the tagline puts it: "It's all about the blood". Yes it very much is.
So some imprisoned mental ex-wrestler dude is slightly upset with the world and wants to contaminate the water to kill the rest of us dudes off. The governor chap is unhappy about this and puts a bounty on the bad dude's head. For some reason too difficult to fathom he calls it a "Death Race" and gets a few more mental dudes (and dudettes) to hunt down as many criminals as possible (to score points) and kill the very bad dude. This (very brief) synopsis is silly....very silly, but that is what the original (and Statham remake) was/is all about. It is about complete silliness on a stick and even this very low budget movie does not disappoint.
I've said it before and I will continue to do so: when you watch a B-Movie, your expectations lower to such a level that even an old lady knitting might quite interesting as long as she showed a bit of leg. The only reason you would want to purchase this movie is because you accept that the budgetary constraints have affected it, but are still willing to give it a chance. Either that or you have walked into Blockbusters thinking you were picking up a pirate copy of the Statham version. Once you have it in your mind that because of these budgetary constraints of this movie:
- The cars won't all be top-notch
- The sound will be a bit off
- Stock footage will be used to full effect
- CGI is as good as not there
- The acting will sometimes be very hammy
- Special Effects are brought back 20 years
- Extra characters die on screen again and again
you may just see a film that you'll enjoy. To some of us, the limitations caused by the factors above actually intrigue us into wondering how on earth can an exciting fast paced movie be made. Well a fast-paced movie has not been made (largely due to the fact that there isn't much racing). However, the film is not at a loss due to the quite excellent humorous dialogue between a few chaps called Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Yes, you did read me correctly. They (according to IMDB) are one of the most hated bands in history. I for one wouldn't know about that. All I can say is that including them in this movie was a masterstroke. These characters set the tone of the movie quite excellently. Most would be offended, but for the few that get the act as what it is (an act), they'll laugh as hard as I did.
Some of the supporting characters are very well cast including Stephen Blackehart as the news presenter Harvey Winkler. I'll admit that he just continued to get more and more amusing as the movie went on. The inclusion of a metal/robot dude with an attachable penis was too funny to describe and the fact that not one of the victims ever had convincing perilous contact with any of the cars somehow made it more amusing.
Death Racers makes you wonder if the brutal murder of a lot of people onscreen should be so amusing. I'm sure that these scenes (if portrayed in a more convincing way) would shock instead of amuse, but as it stands Death Racers is the better for it. Many people will slate this film for not comparing to Statham's Death Race. I applaud it for being an entirely different film.
Strangely the most expensive car in the movie (of the four) is owned by the director. Although this car was put to good effect on the cover of the DVD, it has a downside: the movie shows its age. The whole film is shot with various tints and a large amount of messycam (new term coined by yours truly). This "messycam" and array of tints are the only indication that this movie was shot in the 21st century.
The Asylum has really surprised me with this release. Not only did I enjoy it thoroughly, I even went straight back to listen to the (ever welcome) commentary track. Despite this commentary only including an assistant director and writer it was almost as entertaining as the movie itself.
If you accidentally pick up Death Racers in a video store, believing it is the Statham film (Death Racer), then you could do a whole lot worse. For those of us who accept its (most obvious) flaws, it'll be an enjoyable surprise. Props must go to Elissa Dowling for doing a much more convincing "fake orgasm" than Meg Ryan did in When Harry Met Sally.
I can only hope that The Asylum continue to make movies of this tone. It is their niche in a difficult market. I will also hope that future releases contain a DVD commentary (perhaps including a member of the cast) as these add to the value.
4 out of 5
(Yes. I enjoyed it that much).