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Death Race (UR)
DVD disk
Jan 19, 2009 By: Mathew Plale
Death Race (UR) order
Director:
Paul WS Anderson

Actors:
Jason Statham
Tyrese Gibson
Joan Allen

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A wrongly accused prisoner (Statham) fights for his freedom by racing a Mustang and killing other people in this update of 1975's Death Race 2000.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Watching Death Race, I had an overwhelming urge to press Eject, break the disc in half (at least), and put in Death Race 2000, which, I guess, inspired this wreck. I haven’t seen the 1975 original, but would have rather been watching it, I’m sure of that.

It’s 2012; crime rates are at an all-time high and private corporations run the country’s prisons. One such penitentiary is Terminal Island, whose warden puts on pay-per-view Death Races for $99 a pop (or, order all three at once and save $50).

There’s probably no better lead for this sort of movie than Jason Statham who seems to be contractually restricted to “fast car movies.” He plays Jensen Ames, a former racecar driver (see?) who’s framed for his wife’s murder and sent to Terminal Island, where Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen, and yes, this is a “paycheck movie”) enlists him to don the mask of star attraction Frankenstein (cameo voice of David Carradine) after he’s killed in a race.

“Win five races, you go free.” Each race is made up of three stages and two objectives—1) Win and 2) Survive—and each driver is encouraged to use smoke, napalm, missiles, and their own vehicles to disable, burn, blow up, and decapitate their opponents.

And then…oh, hell, you don’t really care, do you? What if I told you the movie is supposed to be some sort of lamebrain commentary on Americans’ bloodthirst? You’d probably go, “Psssh! What about the shit? Is it fast and does it blow up real good and is it cool?” Let me summarize: the shit (that is, the vehicles and villains) get mangled, Frankenstein’s customized Mustang hits the neighborhood of 180mph, and the camera zooms in and out at the most manic pace imaginable. And the characters—Coach (Ian McShane), navigator Chase (Natalie Martinez, lens-raped like the rest of the women in the cast), and Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson)—say and do stupid things.

The director of Death Race 2000 was Paul Bartel, who before it, made movies called Private Parts and Naughty Nurse. Before Death Race, Paul W.S. Anderson directed movies called Resident Evil and AVP: Alien vs. Predator. Think it over.
THE EXTRAS
Feature Commentary with Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt: Two filmmakers have never been more misled in thinking that you’ll care about their garbage movie. Leap over this one. Available only on the Unrated cut.

Start Your Engines: Making a Death Race (19:42): Anderson and Bolt take the movie far too seriously, with Bolt claiming “We can see reality television as showing an event like this in a few years time,” and Anderson comparing Statham to Bronson, Eastwood, and McQueen.

Behind the Wheel: Dissecting the Stunts (7:49) takes a look at the construction of the cars, the “real”ness of the movie, Anderson’s inspirations, and more stuff you shouldn’t care about.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
The very definition of mindless action. Avoid both versions of Death Race that this DVD so desperately wants you to see.
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