Tired of Jason Statham being a fun and charismatic action star? Well then spend your time watching “Death Race” and see him turned into a boring walking prop, courtesy of the special “talent” of Paul W.S. Anderson!
The world is in shambles. The country is on the brink of depression. Millions are out of work. Violence is now considered entertainment. Convicts are now reduced to television stars for our own sick amusement and we’re on the brink of revolting against a corrupt disgusting government run by a madman. But enough about modern times, let’s focus on “Death Race,” a remake that barely plays in the same ball field as Roger Corman’s original masterpiece.
Gone is the points system, the symbolism, the sharp jabs at violence in the media and the ahead-of-its-time take on reality television (not to mention it was one of the obvious influences for “Grand Theft Auto” ). Instead Anderson just adapts the Playstation game “Twisted Metal” sans the supernatural themes while simultaneously ripping off “The Longest Yard” and “Death Warrant.”
Like Uwe Boll, Anderson has inexplicably gathered a bevy of talented ensemble performers (Tom Cruise produces!) with the likes of Ian McShane as the obligatory mentor to hero Jason Statham, Jacob Vargas (as the stereotypical smart mouthed Latino), and even Joan Allen, who is barely given any material to really show the target audience what she’s capable of; she’s reduced to doing literally nothing but standing around and mumbling two word commands. All are sadly wasted in a hail of painful action clichés, cheesy prison movie devices, and Anderson’s typical style of bombarding us with quick cuts and deafening explosions to distract us from the horrific dialogue and bland action. Hell, even a cameo from the original Dr. Frankenstein as reprised by David Carradine manages to be a completely forgettable and disappointing affair as he’s merely placed in the opening to convince us in vain that this is more of a sequel than a remake.
After Frankenstein “dies” during a big race with alpha male Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese), we are introduced to a new Frankenstein, newly convicted Jensen Ames (Statham), a factory worker whose wife is killed by a masked assailant one night. Conveniently, he’s blamed for the crime and is sent to prison for a life term where he’s called upon to take part in the death races. There’s really no need to brace for spoilers since the first trailer gave away the key plot twist, but there’s really no saving “Death Race” from minute one. It does everything in its power to work against being a remake and instead branches off as a bland and truly terrible little action film. Even at the end of Summer, where movie options are becoming slim, “Death Race” is clunky, boring, void of any thrills or chills and not a great choice for how to spend your time.
Check out the 1975 original instead, kids. It has cars running over old people and women!