Death Race

  • 2008-10-01

FAST WOMEN: A movie to see if you want fast cars and fast women.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

This is one for the boys 's lots of fast cars, hot chicks, explosions, blood and guts. Death Race is definitely not for the romantic comedy crowd.
Death Race is the sort of movie that film buffs used to call a B movie. Once they were literally that, the movie that came on in theatres after the main feature. Now the killer Bs dominate the market.
This movie rips off so many other movies it's hard to know where to begin. Like most B flicks in the last 20 years "Death Race" is essentially a remake of Mad Max but set in prison.

It also rips off "The Running Man", "Rollerball", "Escape from New York", and even "The Truman Show."
This film is incidentally a remake of a film called "Death Race 2000", a rather obscure 70's movie starring Sylvester Stallone. 
In a dystopian United States of the near future the economic system has broken down (like that would ever happen) and poverty and discontent is rife. 
Private corporations have taken over the prisons. To keep the masses happy, they have created a gladiatorial type game in which drivers in armor plated pursuit cars hunt each other in races around a man-made prison island known as 'the Terminal'.

Jensen Ames (the very manly Jason Stratham) is a blue-collar worker with a loving wife and baby daughter. He is also a former racing driver.  One day he comes home with his last pay check from the closed down steel mill and is framed for the murder of his wife.

Six months later he is in the Terminal and being coerced by the fiendish, Hillary Clinton-like governor, Hennessy (Joan Allen), into taking part in the death race. It turns out that Hennessy was behind Ames' wife's murder so that she could replace her star racer Frankenstein - who conveniently always wears a mask.
The film has so many plot holes that you could drive an armor-plated pursuit car kitted out with rocket propelled grenades through it. We are told that the show has a TV audience of 50 million, more than American Idol but by the end of the film one of the main characters has broken out of jail and is enjoying himself in Mexico. Surely everybody would know who he is.

But why worry about the plot. This is not the kind movie that you go to see for plot. Carnage on the road; destruction, death, people being skewered and diced and lots of explosions: that is what the audience wants and that is what they get.
"Death Race" boasts director WS Anderson's trademark style of visually stunning scenery, quick-cut editing, oddly tilted high or low angles and use of pull back shots.

But in order for the film to work, the film needs to have to have something more. You need to care about the characters and their predicaments. This film works on several levels. Stratham may not be the greatest actor in the world, but his performance is nicely understated and you actually believe in his character 's often a difficult thing to pull off in an action movie. Also the way that the main characters bond and form relationships is satisfying to the viewers. The director is known for his ability to make for character-driven video games.
The one glaring omission from the film is that there was an opportunity to throw some social commentary into the mix, which is lost. The Running Man, a similarly themed movie was once considered a piece of nonsense, now with the rise of reality TV, it's considered a strangely prescient cult classic.

In the movie the show  is supposed to be the most popular show in the United States. So where the hell was the audience? This film could have done with a few scenes of people sitting round bars and living rooms and shouting at the TV set. It would have also have made it a more interactive experience for the cinema audience.
But let's not pick holes. On the whole not a bad movie if you like cars and girls.

Showing in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania.


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