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Monday, October 8, 2012

Death Race (2008)

Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 this is not as it is quite apparent that Paul W.S. Anderson is just your generic action director from the school of Michael Bay with not an ounce of real creativity to set himself apart from the likes of Bay or Brett Ratner, and some one should seriously tell him to leave the writing to the professionals.

In this update of the Corman camp classic it is the year 2010 and America has suffered an economic collapse (I guess Obama wasn’t the way to go) and unemployment has reached an all time high which has resulted in the crime rate soaring and causing the prison systems to become overburdened. Big corporations come to the rescue and create a Prison-for-Profit system with gladiatorial games to the death to bring in revenue, and the latest craze is Death Race where inmates must survive several laps of a killer course in the hopes of winning their freedom. Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is a disgraced Nascar driver whose wife is murdered and him framed for the crime, he is sentenced to Terminal Island, the most brutal of the corporate run prisons, and is run by evil Warden Hennessy (Joan Allen) who has her own agenda when it comes to the race. It seems the most popular racer was a masked man by the name of Frankenstein (voiced by David Carradine who played Frankenstein in the original) has died in his last race but Hennessy doesn’t want to lose her most valued commodity so she wants Jensen to don the mask and keep Frankenstein alive and her revenue stream up.

The action scenes are competent and there are some genuine cool moments, but the plot and key elements are so moronic it takes most the fun out of it. It’s no spoiler to reveal that Warden Hennessy was behind the death of his wife as that is practically stated in the trailer so that big “revelation” lands with a resounding thud, the race itself is so chaotic and with out any consistent rules that I can’t see how anyone could get much enjoyment out of it. At one point to increase viewership Hennessy introduces “The Juggernaut” which is an armored tanker truck outfitted with machine gunners, napalm flame-throwers, and rockets which just barrels into the middle of the race to blow the crap out of several drivers. Now how could one expect viewers to get invested in which driver will win if an outside element can just show up and blow anybody away?

This is a movie where stock characters roll out clichés as required and nothing much original happens in its 89 minute running time, and the hero is only slightly more engaging than the villain. The only nod to the original is the characters of Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe, but they are name only homage’s to Corman’s film. When the film ends you are left a pretty empty feeling as if you had eaten too much cotton candy but still feel hungry for some reason.

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