Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ian McShane, Joan Allen, Natalie Martinez
Universal Home Entertainment
Released Date: December 21, 2008
Let’s get one thing out in the great wide open right off the bat: Death Race is not a good movie. It’s completely mindless and filled with over-the-top absurdities (when did the women’s prison get stocked with friggin’ supermodels?) dancing around a very “WWE Films Present” tone.
OK, now that that’s out of the way, I have to admit… Death Race is a pretty damn fun movie. Yes, I really just said that. No, I don’t get it either. Seriously, though, as obvious as it is that the movie won’t be scooping up a collection of Oscars, it’s not out there trying to look like it should be.
Death Race is about an ex race car driver (Jason Statham) who’s out trying to find work in the new great depression (surprisingly fitting) when his wife is murdered and he’s framed for the crime, setting this up to be one of them big, scary movie prisons. The Warden (Joan Allen) offers him the chance to take the place of their most popular (and now deceased) driver so they can make a lot of money off the name with their Internet sensation, the Death Race, where inmates race to the death and where if you win five events, you go free. Without much of a choice, he accepts the offer and attempts to find a way to pull it off.
The thing here is, the movie only tries to be a crazy and insane action movie, like Running Man and the mega smash hit The Condemned all rolled up into one. Because of this, it’s really hard not to have fun watching it. It’s fast and violent and there’s all sorts of Bay-esque explosions to go along with the group of supermodel women prisoners they bus in (including the one played by Natalie Martinez), who act as co-pilot guides to the drivers and as eye candy for the hormone-fueled men who subscribe to the events on the Internet.
The fact of the matter is, sometimes you just don’t want to think about things or put the pieces together, you just want to throw something on (usually a comedy) and let it entertain you. That’s what Death Race attempts to do. Keep in mind one thing here: this isn’t going to affect everyone the same way. I expect a lot of people wont like it as most people didn’t expect to. But a lot of other people will have the same experience that I did and find themselves having a good time. With this, I would recommend renting it first and giving it a fair go. If you like it, pick it up; if not, move on. I’m someone who very often can’t even stomach the thought of watching movies like this and others (like Statham’s Transporter movies), but it was one of the rare ones I could in the end.
Even more amazing to me is Jason Statham. He’s the kind of actor that does all of these movies you just hate and do terrible at the box office, but he keeps showing up and people keep loving him. Hell, I love him! Ever since Snatch, there’s just some freaky mystical appeal that he brings that makes you like him no matter what he does. I’m starting to think he has some voodoo magic thingy going on.
In terms of special features, you’re not going to find a whole lot here. They have a couple of basic making of docs that show you how they did things, as well as interviews with the cast. It was entertaining enough to see some of the stunts, especially since they worked hard to avoid CGI in most cases — something you have to give director Paul W.S. Anderson some credit for — and hear the approach taken.
To recap: Yeah, Death Race is not the best movie you’ll ever see, BUT, I do indeed recommend you give it a shot and watch it. It’s a very modernized, bigger budget kind of grind house movie and worth a hundred-minute or so popcorn snacking session to see if you enjoy the ride or not.