Death Race

A halfway decent Paul W.S. Anderson film, which I believe is a sign of the Apocalypse.

Released in 2008, certified UK-15. Reviewed on 21 Nov 2008 by Scott Morris
Death Race image

It's a Paul W.S. Anderson film. No, wait! Come back! It's more or less passable. Honestly.

Name aside, there's very little relevance to the 1975 original Death Race 2000. While that was hardly a masterwork of satire, it certainly played up the exploitative nature of the direction entertainment media was headed, and afterwards did head, and it also had Sly Stallone in an awesome hat running over old ladies.

No Stallone and no awesome hats here, as the Race moves inside a prison facility in a dystopian futurescape. Is there any other kind of futurescape? No, there is no other kind of futurescape. In this prison Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen) runs the Death Race, a free for all where inmates are granted the use of beefy armoured and armed vehicles to have a race to the death, as the name would suggest. Win the race a number of times and earn your freedom, while the prison makes money hand over fist by broadcasting the events over the Internets.

Ex-racing driver Jason Statham is convicted for the standard issue crime he did not commit in what is quickly revealed (so quickly indeed that it's revealed in the trailer) as a scheme for the Warden to replace the popular masked driver Frankenstein who met with a little accident and caught a slight case of death. Statham is press-ganged into replacing him and driving Lovejoy (Ian McShane)'s motor.

Death Race image

Inheriting a rivalry with Machine Gun Joe, a man whose nickname surely needs no explanation, they enter the race, but will they remain enemies or will they team up to take down the manipulative Warden?

Well, duh.

This isn't something that's going to change your life or invoke any insights into the human condition, but take another look at that directorial credit and think how remarkable it is that this is in any way shape or form watchable. As a brainless motor-orientated action flick, to be honest there's not an awful lot wrong with Death Race.

After the first half hour or so of faintly tedious setup is out of the way, there's lots of cars bombing around crashing into each other and shooting each other and all that sort of Xbox-y kinda stuff, and while it's not a revolution in cinematic entertainment it's a better action film than many of the bigger budget summer blockbusters I've suffered through this year. Mildly recommended for those in search of a brainless actioner.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast list:
Jason Statham (Jensen Ames)
Joan Allen (Hennessey)
Ian McShane (Coach)
Tyrese Gibson (Machine Gun Joe Mason)
Natalie Martinez (Elizabeth Case)