Published on August 25th, 2008 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Death Race
If Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race 2000 remake has anything going for it, it’s the old adage; it knows what it is and doesn’t strive for anything more or anything less. Death Race, the remakes simplified name, is a blistering film drenched in pure octane and lacking much of anything else, but this isn’t award winning cinema here and at no point does the film strive to be, its simply there to entertain for nearly two hours and be done with and almost forgotten about on the ride home.
Death Race, sloshing around in development hell for the better part of the new millennium, even having Tom Cruise attached at one point, is now a budget release for Universal in the doldrums of August when the summer has passed us by, but we aren’t quite ready for award season yet. Jason Statham starts as Jensen Ames a man falsely accused of murdering his wife and thrown into Terminal Island prison. As the beginning of the film explains, the economic turmoil in the United States has lead to private corporations taking over detention duties and reality TV becoming slightly more obscene than Flava of Love.
Drivers are now forced to race for freedom, five wins gets you out, however no one has ever gotten five wins so who knows if the rules of a tyrannically warden (Joan Allen) will hold up when she’s faced with losing her biggest moneymaker. You already know Allen’s Hennessey has set up Ames to get him in her prison and star in her TV show. Coming along for the ride are notables like Tyrese Gibson (whose Transformer‘s check must not have cleared) and Ian McShane (who must be really heartbroken by the cancellation of Deadwood).
From the very onset Death Race grabs you by the groin and pulls you along with arresting shots of cars going fast, rockets exploding, and angry men ramming into each other. Its one testosterone drenched scene after another as Ames tries to find a way to escape and stay alive as Hennessey plots to destroy him after he’s served his purpose.
Statham is his everyday self, gruff, bald, quippy, and incredibly fun to watch in what ever he does. It seems as though writers always try to find a way for him to take his shirt off and work out, or work in a really good fight scene where he will take his short off and work out. Allen does a complete 180 from her turn in the Bourne franchise by hamming up a villain-role that is both unbelievable and utterly unbelievable.
That’s the problem with the movie in general; it sets rules and regulations for its universe and then completely negates them as time goes on including the ease of escape for the prisoners at the end of the film, you’ve probably been in Home Depots more heavily guarded than this maximum security prison.
Still, if you have the right mindset for entering, Death Race can have some amusing moments, usually provided by the interchange between Statham and Allen with McShane thrown in for good measure. Paul W.S. Anderson has never really shown himself to be very capable as a writer/director, usually excelling at the director part and failing miserably at the writing half, and that holds true here with horrible dialog and a story strung together for one explosion after another, but you do get fast cars, hot women, and a damn good, albeit forgettable, time.