Movie Review for Death Race (2008)

Click Poster to Purchase

Review #674 of 365
Movie Review of Death Race (2008) [R] 89 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $11.75
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 22 August 2008 @ 3:00 pm
DVD Release Date: Unscheduled (please check back)
After the Credits: nothing

Soundtrack: Download now from Paul Haslinger - Death Race (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) - or - order the CD below

Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson (AVP: Alien vs. Predator )
Screenplay by: Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil: Extinction) based on screenplay Death Race 2000 by Robert Thom and Charles Griffith

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Jason Statham (In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale ) • Joan Allen (The Bourne Ultimatum) • Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda) • Tyrese Gibson (Transformers) • Natalie Martinez ("Saints & Sinners") • Max Ryan (Thr3e) • Jason Clarke ("Brotherhood") • Frederick Koehler ("Journeyman") • Jacob Vargas (Are We Done Yet?) • Justin Mader (Sketch with Kevin McDonald ) • Robert LaSardo ("Nip/Tuck") • Robin Shou (DOA: Dead or Alive )

review litewebsitetrailerspoiler2cOrNot2c?

Because it's hot and lucrative right now to mine the 70s for B-films to reboot into potential blockbusters, expect even more like Paul W. S. Anderson's Death Race—based on Death Race 2000. The story has all of the essential ingredients for a summer blockbuster: action, cars, mayhem, vengeance, explosions, and a story and characters that are as deep as mountain dew on a melon in May. Jensen Ames (Jason Statham—looking wiry and appropriately malnourished) lose his job at a steel mill, goes home dirty and smelly to his wife and new baby with $300 in cash, cleans up, and comes down to the kitchen to find her dead on the floor. Hours later he wakes up to the sounds of barking cops with a blood soaked kitchen knife in his hands. The film spares us the trial, and leaps to his sentence: life in prison on Terminal Island, a futuristic island prison where, in 2012, all are run by corporations and this one makes a 'killing' literally and figuratively off an Internet streamed show called "Death Race" where convicted felons duel it out on the race course in high octane, weapons and defenses-enhanced, supped up death machines bearing only small resemblance to the cars they once were. There are no rules in the Death Race orchestrated by Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen) who rules her prison with an iron fist. Her pseudo-benevolence emerges from a promise that any racer who survives and wins five races will win his freedom. Upon his arrival and subsequent harassment by Hennessey's right hand Ulrich (Jason Clarke), Ames is broken in by the men of the yard, so to speak, during a breakfast food fight which forces him to defend himself as only Jason Statham could. Shortly thereafter, he's invited by Hennessey to play for his freedom and assume the role of her now-dead superstar Frankenstein whose masked identity makes it easy for anyone to play his part.

…as grim and cynical as one could ever imagine our future…
Frank has won four races and need win only one more to earn his freedom. Reluctantly, Ames agrees to take the role when it appears this is the only way out being the father of his baby daughter. Needless to say, he hopes also to find a way to prove his innocence. His pit crew consists of Coach (Ian McShane), Lists (Frederick Koehler), and Gunner (Jacob Vargas). These three men have worked to turn his car into a masterpiece of destruction. They truly are on his side. Each drive, though, gets a navigator from the women's prison, Frank gets Case (Natalie Martinez), and the pair must survive the three stage race to advance to their freedom. Frank's arch rival in the race will be Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson) who's won three races and seeks a fourth moving one lap closer to that finish line. Will Ames win his freedom? Will he discover who set him up and got him locked up for life in the first place? Who will not survive the Death Race? What tricks does Warden Hennessey have up her sleeve? (Tune in to the spoiler to find out if you dare).

The story is pretty good. It's got some nice twists of fate. The races are like live action video games even with prizes of weapons and defensive measures earned by driving over lighted sword and shield icons embedded in the track. There's nearly non-stop action and violence, bloody mayhem, car destruction like you've never seen it outside of an old-school demolition derby. The key to the plot, of course, is underestimation. Warden Hennessey underestimates everyone but especially Ames. But, again, the plot isn't very complex, and the characters are wafer thin. Meanwhile, the depiction of a future where 45 million+ people would log on and pay $79 to see the stages of this race was as grim and cynical as one could ever imagine our future just 4 years hence. Still, oddly, the film has a certain appeal possibly nested in the good vs. evil category and the testosterone-adrenaline combination of the car races and death matches. If that's what you're into, you'll love this film. Fans of Jason Statham films, will find this mostly to their liking as he's up to his usual stoic, but principle, style in every way. No one can possibly explain why Academy Award-nominated Joan Allen would elect to portray the malevolent Hennessy, though she does the job brilliantly. Ian McShane is similarly above this film and genre. That doesn’t make them less great, it just makes the film that much better.

… a worthy successor to the original as well as a lure to pure adrenalin-fueled, action film junkies.
It's especially fun to see Ms Allen play someone this unremorseful and wicked. Mr. Anderson has rendered brilliant and clever action sequences and stunts that require a disclaimer at the end "no one should repeat any of the stunts from the film" sort of thing were the film's mainstay as was the exciting climax of the film that's equally full of tricks and video-game style treasures. He's definitely improved on his game in this film handling the requirements of a major-budget action film with cutting edge technology well beyond the superficial levels. In the end, the parallels between the film and a high end PS3 game won't be lost on fans of either. Anderson's Death Race is a worthy successor to the original as well as a lure to pure adrenalin-fueled, action film junkies. Almost anyone else, however, may prefer to take a detour saving dough for viewing the fall season Oscar-contenders.

Alternate Posters
Click to Purchase

Send This Review To a Friend

Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Death Race (2008)
Cast Members
Jason StathamJoan AllenIan McShane
Tyrese GibsonNatalie MartinezMax Ryan
Jason ClarkeFrederick KoehlerJacob Vargas
Justin MaderRobin Shou
Paul W. S. Anderson
Paul W. S. Anderson

Review-lite Death Race (2008) [max of 150 words]
Paul W. S. Anderson breathes new energy into this reboot of the near-classic Death Race 2000. In a grim and cynical future, an island prison becomes home to one of the Internet's most watched original programming, The Death Race orchestrated by the Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen). Win five races and win your freedom is the motto, but nearly no one can ever win with the game stack against them. She underestimates former race car driver Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) though bringing him in by framing him for the murder of his wife. In no short time, he dismantles everything the malevolent super witch values and then some to exact his revenge. Using the trick of real video games, Anderson cleverly recreates this film such that it will please just about any adrenalin-fueled, video game junky. Pretty much everyone else, though, might save this one for late night television in 2011.

Send This Review To a Friend

No comments: