Death Race

Death Race
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenwriter: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez
Release Date: 2008-08-27
Studio: Universal
Music Score: Paul Haslinger
Rated: R
Genre: Action

Let’s just throw this out there: This B-movie remake fails horribly in nearly every category on which a legitimate film critic should base a review. The acting’s lazy; the writing is ridiculous; the direction is a joke. I’ll even bet the catered food was too greasy, and the best boy took naps on the set. Characters constantly drop tag lines and the camera hyper-jump-cuts between machine guns and women’s breasts so much the film feels like a trailer for itself.

The truly subversive elements from the original (the point system rewarding running over children and the elderly, the heroic assassination plot) have been stripped and replaced with an easy-to-swallow parable criticizing man’s animalistic delight at the suffering of fellow human beings. Or something. What grave moral should we take from a speculative future in which death-row inmates race for freedom in explosive-equipped race cars on pay-per-view television? That sounds awesome. You’re talking to a house packed with people who just paid to watch almost exactly that, in fact.

Oscar nominee Allen desperately tries to give her sociopathic prison warden some creepy depth, but McShane, bravely playing against post-Deadwood typecasting as Al Swearengen with longer hair, just looks bored. Hell, even Statham (Crank, Transporter 2), aka Bruce Willis with a British accent, is above the material here.

But the film has even more apparent problems: A man going by the name Frankenstein (Statham) actually looks square at the camera and says “You wanted a monster? Now you’ve got one.” That actually made it into film’s the final cut, which should  tell you all you need to know, really.

On the plus side, most of that stuff I just mentioned (probably even the caterer) at some point explodes, gets shot, or at minimum, is set on fire and run over in slow motion. My jaw gaped in childlike wonder for most of this movie, and I think I might’ve pooped a little. Hey, I never said I was a legitimate film critic.


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