August 24th, 2008

DEATH RACE (2008) ***

Usually I’m opposed to remakes on general principals, especially if the film in question is a one-of-a-kind cult classic like Death Race 2000.  Fortunately, this retooling of Paul Bartel’s original masterpiece is still enormously entertaining despite the fact that it lacks the satiric black humor that made that film so memorable. The difference between the two films is that instead of having drivers trying to kill pedestrians for points, their goal is to kill each other; which admittedly takes some of the fun out of it.  That means no decapitating innocent passerbys, no flattening of fans on the sidelines, and more importantly… NO EUTHANASIA DAY!  Sigh… That said, this movie is still the best braindead Jason Statham action movie since In the Name of the King:  A Dungeon Siege Tale.


Basically what we got here is a futuristic R-rated version of Mario Kart where the drivers run over emblems that give them weapons (anything from machine guns, to oil slicks, to napalm) that they can use to take out the other cars.  Statham is the good guy who is framed for his wife’s murder by the evil bitchy warden (Joan Allen) who wants him to drive in the race and pose as the sport’s top star, Frankenstein so she can get rich off the pay-per-view ratings. 


Sure, you’ve seen all this done before in such movies like Rollerball, The Running Man, and Speed Racer, but here it is again, this time with Jason Statham. 


A lot of people hate on director Paul W.S. (Mortal Kombat) Anderson’s body of work, but I don’t know; I sort of like a guy.  What more can you say about a director who can strip away all the best stuff from an American movie classic and STILL make it work pretty good? 


Most of the movie’s enjoyment is due to the actors; all of whom seem to be relishing their roles.  Statham gives another dynamic performance and is proving to be one of the hardest working men in show business.  (It’s like he’s really his character from Crank and has to make a movie every three months or he’ll die.)  Ian (Lovejoy) McShane has a lot of fun as Frankenstein’s mechanic who gets the film’s biggest laughs.  But it’s Joan Allen who really sinks her teeth into the role of the cunthole warden.  She chews the scenery up real good and gets the best line of the film:  “Fuck up my race cocksucker, and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk!”


I still think the best part of the movie though comes from the small (vocal) cameo from the original Frankenstein, David Carradine.  But that’s just me.


Now Death Race certainly has its fair share of deficiencies; namely Tyrese Gibson’s gay (no I mean it, he really is gay) performance as Machine Gun Joe (the role played by none other than Sylvester Stallone in the original), but it featured enough twisted metal, gunfire and bloodshed to keep me entertained.  Besides this movie just further proves my theory that along with Transporter 2, any movie in which Jason Statham plays a character named Frank who inadvertently ends up with a bomb stuck on the bottom of his car is a good movie.