Saturday, August 1, 2009
Review: Death Race
Synopsis: Framed for a crime he didn't commit, an ex-con and former race car driver is forced by the warden of a notorious prison to compete in our post-industrial world's most popular sport: a car race in which inmates must brutalize and kill one another on the road to victory... and freedom!
Review: Summertime is well-known for trotting out the big action films and "Death Race" was certainly no different, in the summer of 2008. The basics of the plot are a pretty well-travelled affair and none of the actors does any real stretching beyond their character's needs. From Joan Allen's "ballbuster" warden, to Jason Statham's "hard-ass" hero, to Ian McShane's "Yoda-like" veteran inmate, nothing new, innovative or different is brought out.
Of course, no one really sees films like this for deep and meaningful performances. It's all about the action and this one gives you plenty of it. The car battles are done exceedingly well. You actually feel like you are in the vehicle, as the action unfolds. The stunts on the track are pretty much what you expect. If you like to watch fast cars and big explosions, this film will not fail you.
One of the things that's interesting about this film, is exactly how it is connected to Roger Corman's cult classic "Death Race 2000." Originally, this was to be a sequel, with futuristic floating cars, like out of "Back to the Future Part II," but the expense forced that to be changed. The film's writer/director, Paul W.S. Anderson, has said that this is meant as a prequel to Corman's film, but since this takes place AFTER the time period of it, I find that hard to swallow. So, for myself, I see it as an updated remake, which I normally find very putrid, since most remakes are of films that are already good on their own. But "Death Race" is of that rare breed, where the remake can be taken on it's own and enjoyed, without it being disrespectful to the previous version. Something made much easier, by the guest voicing of (the late) David Carradine as "Frankenstein" (the same character he played in Corman's classic original).
So, while "Death Race" isn't a film that will leave you pondering deep philosophical questions about life and humanity, it manages to pack in plenty of thrills and action that one comes to expect of the typical summer flick. It's simply big, dumb fun and very re-watchable! What every action blockbuster aspires to be. It is sure to appeal to the 14-year old in every guy.
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)