"Okay cocksucker... don't you f*ck with me!" – Warden Hennessey
Full Disclosure: Although my scene is not in the film, I’m still credited in DEATH RACE. So with that info on the table, take this review which ever way you will.
DEATH RACE is a loose re-imagining of the Roger Corman produced/Paul Bartel directed 1975 Cult classic DEATH RACE 2000. On this round though, Paul Anderson was at the driver's seat and I'm happy to report that he Colt Trickled this celluloid ride to the finish line with skill and relentlessness. Personally, AVP aside, I’ve pretty much really dug all of Paul Anderson’s films (never got the fanboy hate for the man... still don't) and I got to say it, this has to be his best celluloid adrenaline injection since the original RESIDENT EVIL.
DEATH RACE lived up to its title and then some by wasting no time in setting up its “we’re gonna bust shit up” premise to then let her rip with a vengeance while having ZERO pretenses about its vehicular tantrum. It was so obvious that the flick was PROUD of its exploitation raison d'etre and personally, I found that to be one of its most endearing traits…right next to its ample mayhem that is. Lets face it here, DEATH RACE is a flick that will first and foremost! appeal to viewers with a set of big bulldog balls between their legs. Yup, it's a guy flick, one that had all the big Bs covered: bullets, brashness, babes, bodacious rides, big booms, big boobs and badasses while being fueled on pure testosterone too boot. Moreover, peeps with a gun fetish rejoice because you’ll drool all over your theater seat like Cujo craving Scooby for a snack after you witness the artillery at play here. Damn! To quote the great Clarence Bodicker: "Guns, guns, guns!" And the same went for the visceral way Anderson shot his races, executed his many brilliantly structured car stunts and the countless kabooms on hand. No Speed Racer-ish girly man CGI here kids! The cars flipping, smashing and crashing were all done practical. How refreshing that was to witness and yes...I was OWNED by it!
Now that I think of it, DEATH RACE somewhat played out like a VIDEO GAME in the sense that it put out its premise, introduced its colorful characters and then went buck wild with its zany race, one where you can pick up shields or/and weapons at that (just like in a video game). Don't get me wrong, there was a simple yet effective narrative line that acted as meat and drove the plot forward but nothing that would eclipse the depth of say Spy Hunter's storyline (a video game Death Race reminded me of at times). And you know what amigos? For a dude like me… that M.O. was good news! Some flicks are created to make you feel or think. Others like this one are created to make you rock out with your cock out! Pure, unadultarated entertainment. NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! Evel Knievel on top of all that jiving jive, tighter than a virgin’s slit casting (you can't go wrong with Statham in an action lead, Tyrese as a villain and Joan Allen looking hot and cussing like a sailor on leave), a furious pace that rarely slowed down for a pit stop yet alone to bore me, a sometimes cynical sense of humor that hit the mark and sharp dialogue and you get an unapologetic and high octane canon ball of fun!
On a slim bummer, the flick went the shaky cam way now and again in terms of communicating its races and that resulted in me getting confused as to whom was whom. Also, I’m sure if I think real hard about it - the villain’s motive behind her initial actions won’t fully hold up in a court of Arrow. With that said I won’t do that –cause A: thinking is not my strong suit and B- I don't feel like thinking. Lastly the cap-off was just too neat, cute and tidy for the type of film this was. To be honest, I didn’t fully buy it, especially when it came to one character becoming “a big sweety pie” all of a sudden. Meh. This bad ass deserved a ballsier and less "mainstream" finale.
All in all though DEATH RACE was what it was with pride - a big budget B-Movie, that did what it did with talent, class, energy and gusto. In fact it wound up being one of my top films of the year thus far. Who knew? It looked like my kind of film (via the trailers) but I didn’t expect to enjoy it this freaking much! I love it when that happens! On your mark, get set…GO! RACE TO THE DEATH!