Death Race (2008) dir. Paul W.S. Anderson
Starring: Jason Statham, Ian McShane, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson
"Death Race" is a surprisingly entertaining exercise in muscular testosterone fueled cine carnage. Roger Corman’s b-movie camp classic of 1975 “Death Race 2000” turns out to be highly updatable to the new Millenium.
It’s 2012, the economy is in the dumps (pretty good prognosticating there) and the bloodthirsty viewing public wants more destructive entertainment. The hottest program is called “Death Race” - a three-day ultra-violent race between the most hardcore badass criminals.
“Death Race” is structured around 3 lengthy action sequences – three stages of the Death Race. Anderson cleverly takes influence from video games with the real-time rules of the race. The television footage is broadcast like one would play say, EA Sports Nascar game. The rules of the race including the spaces which unlock the vehicles’ weaponry are fundamental video game elements.
Despite plot holes the size of massive exploded walls, smartly casted watchable actors like Jason Statham and Ian McShane, minimized uncomplicated dialogue and Anderson’s NOS-boosted pacing rockets us through the story so fast we don’t get a chance to even question the logic.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Mortal Kombat", "Alien Vs. Predator") is a curiously successful director. Though he is reviled by both critics and action fans he continues to get work. Renny Harlin (“Die Hard 2”, “Cliffhanger”) makes an interesting comparison with Anderson. Both emerged in the 1990’s as action-heavy directors, yet while Harlin’s career slowly died after a number of unsuccessful and critically drubbed films, Anderson continues to make bigger and bigger films.
However schlocky and disposable Anderson seems to have been picky with his gigs. Since 1998, he’s only made 3 films (“Resident Evil”, “Alien Vs. Predator” and “Death Race”). Each one has a distinct B-movie attitude with production values which exceed their comparatively medium range budgets (Death Race was made for $45million).
Anderson is no ‘director-for-hire’ either. He receives sole screenwriting credit, so the vested interest in the work is strangely admirable. Anderson takes his work seriously and the fun exhuberance for the material is palpable.
"Death Race" will never reach the cult status of the original film or even it’s other influences, “Escape from New York”, or “The Road Warrior”, but there’s something admirable about the ability of this kind of anarchic style of action cinema to entertain us.
“Death Race” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment