August 30, 2008 by  

Death Race


Death Race

Jason Statham stars as prisoner Jensen Ames in "Death Race."

Starring: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“AVP: Alien Vs. Predator”)
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”)

If “Speed Racer” wasn’t enough to satisfy your need for future NASCAR-racing concepts, then “Death Race” might add a little more fuel to the fire for those who like their asphalt track chock-full of human remains.

A remake of the 1975 sci-fi action flick “Death Race 2000,” which starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, “Death Race” is set only four years into the future. Forget the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. When the U.S. economy hits rock bottom, the face of sports entertainment changes so drastically, people are paying money to watch a group of felons kill each other on the racetrack on TV. Another cliché film about America’s blood lusting for violence in the media? That would be giving “Death Race” entirely too much credit.

Recruited by the prison’s stone-cold warden (Joan Allen), Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), who is thrown into the pen after being falsely convicted of killing his wife, is told that he can win his freedom back by secretly replacing one of the prison’s best drivers, Frankenstein, who was unknowingly killed in the last race.

Hoping to one day see his little girl again, Jensen accepts her offer and is teamed up with a few greaser cons who strap him into a supped-up black Mustang to go head to head with other twisted-metal vehicles equipped with machine guns and other dastardly weapons. Along with his boys in the pit, Jensen is matched with Case (Natalie Martinez), a tight-bodied co-driver brought in from a women’s prison facility (hint: she’s cast for the sex appeal) for the three-day event.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (“AVP: Alien Vs. Predator”), “Death Race” is rip-roaring fast, sleazy, and mind-numbing. While Anderson gets some cool points for a few exciting loops around the track, his screenplay misses its opportunity to give its characters some life behind their deadened eyes. Instead, Anderson focuses on the gruesome deaths, Allen’s bitchy and underwritten persona, and keeping the camera on Martinez’s assets.

If you’re accepting of all low-brow entertainment no matter how tacky, “Death Race” will probably be your new favorite sport pastime. If you don’t want to risk it, you can get the same effect by reading a lowrider magazine while stabbing yourself in the leg with a rusty nail. Tetanus anyone?

Grade: C-

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