Death Race. Dead stupid.
Here’s another review from last week. Possibly the worst film I have seen this year. I wish I had seen a few more 4 star films of late!
Jason Statham just seems to keep playing the same old parts. It’s amazing how many people (including Richard Wilkins, I heard him on Today!) call him Jason Stratham or Jason Stretham. Google if you don’t believe me.
Death Race (MA)
Jason Statham, IanMcShane, Joan Allen
Directed by Paul WS Anderson
Some women might find an evening with the buff and tattooed Jason Statham an appealing prospect but having seen the trailer for Death Race, I was looking forward to seeing his latest film about as much as doing my tax.
If you have seen the trailer, there’s little more to be said. But for those who haven’t, the story goes something like this.
It’s the year 2012, the US economy is a mess, unemployment is high and prisons are under private control and at maximum capacity.
Former steel worker and race car driver Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to the worst prison of all, Terminal Island.
Ice queen warden Hennessy (Joan Allen) tells Ames he doesn’t belong there and offers him the chance to walk free.
The catch – he has to drive in the death race. This internet streamed event has become a ratings hit and cash cow for Hennessey but ratings have slumped since the death of their favoutie driver Frankenstein.
Fans believe Frank – so severely disfigured he wears a heinous mask – has been in the infirmary for six months and Hennessy wants Ames to don Frank’s mask so he can “return” to the track.
Any prisoner to win five rounds gets to walk free and Frank already has four wins on the board. All that stands between Ames and freedom is, well, quite a lot actually including an assortment of badasses that make the cast of Prison Break look like pushovers, nasty guards and an arsenal of killer cars and weapons.
Ames might not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he soon realises his freedom is not going to come as easily as winning one race. There’s so little plot to reveal any more would blow the lot.
And so to the stunts. This is one of the only action films I can recall ending with the bold disclaimer that all stunts were performed under controlled conditions by professional stuntmen and should not be replicated.
Surely even the dimmest hoon would realise it’s not going to be an easy feat to get hold of armoured cars that look like modified tanks and have been fitted with napalm, machine guns and flame throwers?
This loose remake of the 1975 film Death Race 2000 really is horrible. Paul Bartel’s film started Sylvester Stallone, among others, in a cross country race where competitors scored points for killing pedestrians. Here the violence quota has been upped so high there’s little room for humour.
At the start of the film we get a glimpse of the decent family man that former bad boy Ames has been striving to become but his wife’s murder is a poor excuse for the non-stop carnage that follows.
Still, what more should I have expected from director Paul WS Anderson, whose credits include Alien vs Predator and the video game to film translations of Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat?
Just like the gratuitous violence of many video games, participants in the death race are crushed, smashed, splattered and blown away in graphic detail.
Dialogue and plot take a back seat to the industrial sets and souped up killer cars that blast their way through their bleak surroundings.
To add eye candy and reduce credibility even further, every driver gets a scantily clad female navigator from the nearby women’s prison. The only driver who gets a male navigator is Ames’ main opponent Machine Gun Joe, who is apparently gay, a fact that has no bearing on anything else in the film.
Ian McShane of Deadwood adds a sliver of humanity among the mayhem as Ames’ head mechanic Coach but how he got caught up in this mess is anyone’s guess.