Thanks for checking out our Death Race Review. If you’d like to see the video version of our Death Race review, you can check it out at the bottom of our written version.
There used to be a plethora of legitimate big screen action heroes for us to go and idolize on Saturday afternoons. Jean Claude, Sylvester, Arnold, Segal and a handful of others. These days it’s hard to point to a legit action hero with the possible exceptions of The Rock (yeah he likes to go by Dwayne Johnson now… but he’ll always be “The Rock”) and maybe even more so, Jason Statham.
Death Race comes along, and obviously it’s a remake of the 1975 classic… and almost as obvious is that it’s a very lose remake. Not many people have been giving any buzz to this flick, including myself since despite the presence of Joan Allen, has looked cheap at best and an abomination at worst. So off we went to catch Death Race. Was it as bad as we thought it would be. Actually… no.
THE GENERAL IDEA
The synopsis for Death Race looks something like this: “In 2012, the United States economy collapses and life for everyone is not the same. Once a NASCAR champion, Jensen Ames, (Jason Statham), hits rock bottom and spent several years in prison. His life was improving and changing for the better after meeting and marrying Suzy (Janaya Stephens) and having a baby girl. Then the steel mill closes, and he loses his job. But that was not the worst thing to happen to Jenson that day. Suzy is brutally murdered, and he is framed for her murder. Jenson is sent to Terminal Island, the worst and toughest for-profit prison in the country run by Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen). She has created the country’s most popular pay-per-view sport, a kill-or-be-killed car race where the inmates race to win their freedom from prison after 5 wins. Every inmate driver is driving a monster car that they built which is loaded with machine guns, missiles, flamethrowers, napalm, and no rules. Warden Hennessey convinces Jensen to secretly take the place of the late 4-time superstar winner, Frankenstein, and wear his metallic mask in the race. If Jensen wins just one race, he can go home to his baby daughter. To get to the finish line, Jensen must kill his competition before they kill him.”
One of the things I wasn’t expecting from this little flick were laughs, but surprisingly enough I caught myself giggling a bunch of time throughout the movie. Yes, most of the laughs came from the over the top visual violence… but there are a number of crisp one liners throughout that kept me engaged beyond just the crazy violence. Speaking of which…
I knew that if there was going to be any saving grace for Death Race it would have to come from sheer quantity and quality violence. My friends this movie nails it right on the head in this regard!!! The brutal weaponized car on car psycho violence was INSANE! The movie starts with a great action sequence and then just keeps delivering for the rest of the hour and a half run time. There were several spots where both Doug and I jumped out of our seats. It was good stuff.
One thing I don’t mention very often is sound design. Death Race had AMAZING sound design! The sound of the car races pulls you into the action almost as well as the visuals did. As a matter of fact, the last time I so clearly noticed sound design like this was when I watch the Pod Race scene in The Phantom Menace. It was killer.
Action and some giggles aside, this isn’t a very good movie. The plot and the set up are beyond stupid, the dialog throughout wasn’t the worst I’ve heard all year, but still quite poor. Whenever someone had to say anything beyond one line, it usually ended up making me cringe.
I swear, this movie was more of a “Shawshank Redemption” remake than it was a “Death Race” remake. Seriously, it had far more in common with Shawshank… to the point that I’ll call it out and proclaim it a pure rip off.
Shawshank – A man with a skill useful to the warden that is falsely accused of killing his wife
Death Race – A man with a skill useful to the warden that is falsely accused of killing his wife
Shawshank – Corrupt, quotes the bible, wants to keep hero in Jail selfishly
Death Race – Corrupt, quotes the bible, wants to keep hero in Jail selfishly
Shawshank – Understands the prison system, been in a long time, afraid to leave jail
Death Race – Understands the prison system, been in a long time, afraid to leave jail
The similarities go on and on. it was quite annoying actually.
A bad comedy can be saved if it at least makes people laugh. A bad horror can be saved if it at least creeps people out. And so to, a bad action movie can be saved if it’s exciting and fun to look at. Death Race, although a “bad” film, is ultimately saved because of its crazy and fun action. You walk out entertained despite the glaring weaknesses inherent in the other aspects of the film. I ended up liking it. Overall I give Death Race a 6.5 out of 10.
Here’s the video version of our Death Race review: