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Death Race (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000112231
Added by: Si Wooldridge
Added on: 20/1/2009 23:24
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    Death Race


    The year is 2012 and rather unbelievably the US economy has collapsed (where do they get these plot lines from?) and unemployment has hit a record high. As a result, crime rates spiral out of control and the prison system reaches breaking point. The solution? Private sector corporations run all prison/correctional facilities for profit.

    Terminal Island penitentiary decided to stream live cage fights where prisoners would fight to the death and due to a reality TV loving audience, ratings soared. As is inevitable though, the audience got bored of the same old same old, and so Death Race was born. Set in 3 stages, the idea is to first take out as much of the opposition as you can in stages 1 and 2 (alive or dead, it matters not) and then get over the line first at the end of stage 3. To help, the drivers are equipped with armour plated custom cars with a huge array of offensive and defensive weaponry.

    OK, so that's the concept, what about the plot? Well, Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) has had a really bad day at work. His steel mill has closed down and the entire workforce is made redundant with a $300 final pay packet for 2 weeks work. To add insult to injury, the owners call in the local SWAT to help dissipate a rather annoyed workforce and riots inevitably kick off. As if that wasn't bad enough, when Ames finally gets home, it isn't long before his wife is murdered and he's framed for it, ending up in… Oh yeah, Terminal Island. You saw that coming, didn't you?

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    An introduction to hard assed Warden Hennessy (Joan Allen) reveals that coincidently Ames is an ex-professional driver who lost his license and Hennessy would like Ames to replace the rather popular but also rather dead Frankenstein. You may think that this poses a problem for a nationally televised sport with over three hundred camera angles to choose from, but no, Frankenstein always wore a mask to cover his ugly mug that was chokka with crash scars.

    Ames doesn't want to do it but Hennessy uses his baby daughter as emotional blackmail to make him an offer he can't refuse. And so Ames teams up with Coach (Ian McShane) and the rest of Frankenstein's pit crew to allow Frankenstein the opportunity to win his fifth race and gain his freedom. Although, as always, it's not quite that straight forward.

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    Not really an extra but once more Universal look to try and spoil the fun by putting their intermittent banner through the middle of the screen again. They won't stop doing it but that ain't going to stop me from mentioning it every time.

    Start Your Engines: Making A Death Race - rather run of the mill Making Of featurette that spans 18 minutes without really saying too much.

    Behind The Wheel: Dissecting The Stunts - this one says even less and only really explains that most of the stunts were real rather than CGI.

    Commentary with Paul W. Anderson and Jeremy Bolt - not a huge fan of commentaries but this is relatively interesting.

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    Jason Statham and Paul W.Anderson? A combination you might well expect to team up but not one that you may expect anything good to come from. I'm not a huge Statham fan by any means as I find he's kind of filled the gap left by the likes of Seagal and Van Damme (in the cinema, rather than straight to DVD). On the other hand, whilst PWA is no Ridley Scott, I don't quite get the bad reputation he's picked up whilst not being a big fan of any of his films. What hope for this remake of a certified Roger Corman cult classic then?

    Actually it's pretty damned good. The story has been adapted from the trans-continental carnage to mass entertainment that is self-contained within a prison facility (clearly influenced by Running Man) but the style and carnage of the main stars (the cars, what else) are pure post-apocalyptic Mad Max. The rather excellent thing about this remake is that while green screens and CGI are still used, the majority of the stunts are real and therefore it feels much more visceral and realistic. The action sequences are well executed and have the feel of a computer game about them as weapons and hazards are triggered by driving over icons in the track, which should help make the inevitable gaming tie in that little bit easier.

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    The other help is the cast. Statham is pretty good in the role vacated by David Carradine (who incidently voiced the soon-to-dead Frankenstein in the opening sequence - nice touch) and Tyrese Gibson more than adequately replaces Sly Stallone. Backing them up rather impressively are Joan Allen as ice-cold Warden Hennessy and Ian McShane as the chief mechanic and mentor, Coach. The standard of acting for this type of genre film is rather good, but face it, the audience aren't here for Oscar standards, but overall it helps hold it all together and saves it from B-Movie status.

    I wasn't expecting to like this much, having just come from Vinnie Jones' The Riddle, but I really enjoyed this film. It's more than competently put together and is a very enjoyable albeit violent ride that could and should (if there's any justice) rehabilitate Paul W.Anderson's ill-deserved reputation and maybe make Statham more of a mainstream albeit still rather moody film star.


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