In a remake that no one asked for, lovable Jason Statham heads to the most dangerous prison on the planet to win his freedom in Death Race, a pay-per-view sensation where the last prison standing - or in this case, driving - gets glory. Yes, move over Sly - Death Race is back.
I don't recall much of the original, other than that it involved killing pedestrians. Despite that gruesome fact, I didn't like the movie all that much, and scoffed when I heard a new version was coming out. While this new Death Race is not worth your while, it's at least entertaining on a visceral level. The movie has cars, action, gunfire, explosions, gore and, of course, death; the only thing it lacks is sex, though the mere presence of Natalie Martinez makes up for much of that.
This review really doesn't matter, because those who are interested in a film like Death Race will watch it no matter what; those who aren't have already made up their minds. Nevertheless, as far as a Paul W.S. Anderson movie goes, Death Race holds its own; it's mildly exciting, has lots of action and even establishes some decent characters. No matter how bad the movie, Statham is always able to come off as a guy to root for; beyond him, Ian McShane of Deadwood fame makes a good right-hand man. Martinez doesn't get to do much other than look pretty, but that's OK; unfortunately, Tyrese Gibson gets the rather thankless role as the bland villain. Joan Allen is decent as she once again plays a bitch hiding in a control center.
Unfortunately, Anderson doesn't take the action to the next level. The movie is about a race, yet you never get a sense of speed or feel your adrenaline pumping. Anderson doesn't dive into the action in the way I would have liked; he seems more intent on showing random carnage. Carnage is good, but there needs to be something else. Furthermore, the movie is pretty predictable and lacks a villain we can truly hate; neither Allen or Gibson fit this role. In the end, Death Race has its moments but is immediately forgettable.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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