Friday, August 29, 2008

Movie Review: Death Race

The brainless action picture has been in a rut of late. Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger got a more respectable job (in theory), Stallone decided his movies had to "mean" something, and Mel Gibson went bat-shit insane there really hasn't been anyone to take up the slack. Sure, Jet Li made an admirable attempt, but, unfortunately, his American flicks tend to be crap. Fortunately, Jason Statham came along and has finally provided TNT with new movies to show at midnight for drunk college kids (and myself) to watch. The latest of these is Death Race, ostensibly, an update of Death Race 2000. I haven't seen the original in over ten years, so my memory is a little hazy, but I seem to remember it going for a more satirical edge than this, incredibly straight-forward action flick. And straight-forward it is, this is one lean movie.

The set-up is that it's 2012 and the economy is in an even worse shambles than it is right now, and because of this, all of the nation's prisons have been out-sourced to for-profit companies (funny, I thought this had already been done). Anyway, these companies make their money by putting on gladiatorial competitions, the most popular of which is Death Race. Jason Statham, a just-laid-off steel worker, is framed for his wife's murder and thrown in the clink. Apparently, the star of the Death Race enterprise, Frankenstein, is under the weather, and his corporate master, Joan Allen (slumming, the disdain for the things she has to do to pay the mortgage on her place in the Hamptons, showing on her face) needs someone to wear the Frank mask. Fortunately, her new inmate, Statham, happens to be a kick-ass driver! What a coinky-dink! You don't think that, perhaps, Allen had something to do with his wife's death do you? DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNN!

The thing is, there's no doubt she had his wife killed, in fact, there's nothing mysterious about this movie at all, no shocking reveals, no characters changing sides, everything is exactly as it seems to be, and it's kind of refreshing. They don't dick around with character development or plot, they just get straight to the death-racin', which is pretty cool. The whole thing is set up like a video game, in order to use their guns or defensive weapons, the drivers have to pass over power-ups on the course. It's made up of three races with increasing difficulty and a whole ton carnage.

This is a fun movie, there were times I was literally laughing at the insanity, and that's a good thing. Obviously, it's not a "good" movie, but it does exactly what you'd want a movie named Death Race to do. The only big problem with the movie is the track. All three races take place on the same, abandoned warehouse/industrial site and it's gets old quick. If there is a sequel, I seriously hope that they take the race out on the road, just to break up the monotony. The only other problem is that Ian McShane was in the movie and he didn't say "cocksuker" even once. I mean, if you're going to have him in a R-rated flick, why the hell not? Though Joan Allen does say it once, so that's gotta count for something.

Also, it could just be the few IQ points peeled off by seeing this movie, but now I'm excited for Fast & Furious. That trailer looked pretty darn cool.

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