Death Race remake (film, 2009)


A review of the DVD of the remake (phew!) from Death Ray #18.

2008/18

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Starring: Jason Statham, Jason Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson

Film: THREE STARS Extras: TWO AND A HALF STARS

Paul Anderson pulls out another solid three-star affair. If he keeps this up, we might grow to like him.

Paul Anderson attracts fire from geeks in about the same measure that a bright pink tank on a battlefield might. I’ve had a pop at his films before, so in summation: Anderson at his worst exhibits all of SF’s greatest flaws, at his best he’s at least a competent action man.

Death Race is a revamp of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 (the millennial year was a way off when the film was made in 1975). Unlike Corman’s film, which depicted a cross-country marathon where contestants got points for mowing down pedestrians, Anderson’s has a predictable plot of a framed man in the clink engaged in gladiatorial auto-combat. Jensen Aimes (Statham) is convicted of murdering his wife, and is sent to a corporate-run jail where the inmates are forced to take part in the Death Race. This sport makes a tidy sum for Evil-O-Corp, and the jail’s warden wants Aimes to replace fan favourite (and dead) driver Frankenstein. Aimes must survive and wreak vengeance with help from Ian McShane (in for antiques forgery and profanity in 19th century Dakota). There are fisticuffs, fit birds, rippling torsos and fast-cut races. Which is what you’d expect.

The cult original is one of the worst films ever made. It may lack the “satire” (I use the word loosely), but Anderson’s film is far superior to Corman’s silly motor rally, and boasts great live-action stunts (the film nobly eschews CGI). We’ll give it to Anderson that he is not a bad director, he’s not even a bad storyteller, but he is a lousy ideas man, with a world view about as complex and misguidedly self-assured as that of a 14 year-old. The story is the expected Anderson confection of borrowed cliché and violence, but it entertains more than many other B-pictures.

Extras: A 20 minute making of, where we find Statham had to eat nothing but vegetables while filming to keep his super-lean physique, another about the stunts, and a commentary with Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt.

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