Jason Statham is the Only Reason to See Death Race
I could probably stop my review of Death Race at the title of this review. But allow me to give further proof. This is an actual bit of dialog that Joan Allen says quite on purpose.
Okay cocksucker! Fuck with me and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk!
Wow. What kind of drugs must you ingest to put those particular words in that particular order, give them to an actor, and actually convince her to say them in that particular order on very expensive film?
Death Race is a contemporary interpretation of the cult classic Death Race 2000. The original takes a satirical view of a culture obsessed with violence as entertainment. The remake examines similar themes but does so in a very safe, watered down fashion. That sounds strange in a film billed as a no-holds-barred actioner with splodies a plenty. Never the less, this is a kinder, gentler Death Race.
The race itself plays out like a video game. Every car is armed to the teeth. The weapons on the cars are controlled electronically by the prison. Cars must drive over sword icons to activate offensive weapons like machine guns or missiles and shield icons to activate defensive weapons like oil slick and smoke screen. Like Spy Hunter. Except less fun. Driving over skull icons activates death traps. When the warden turns on the icons, it’s first come first serve.
The characters are all glorified stereotypes. The dialog is atrocious. The plot is barely serviceable. The video game race is fucking lame. The stunts aren’t all that impressive. But that’s all window dressing compared to my biggest problem with the flick. By changing the setting from a cross country race of random death and mayhem to a prison, Death Race becomes a safe movie. As B movie bad as Death Race 2000 was, it left me uncomfortable. Most of the deaths in the original were completely random and totally unjustified. The only unjust death in the remake is the murder of Jason Statham’s character’s wife. Every other death falls into the righteous killing category. You virtually cheer for everyone that Statham puts down. And the random drivers who bite it we don’t care about because they were hardened criminals. They’re all righteous killings, completely justified and therefore totally safe.
This is a terrible movie. But what saves it from the “so terrible I wish I could go back in time and beat the shit out of myself to prevent me from ever seeing that piece of shit that I just saw” pile to the “wow, that’s so shitty it’s actually good” pile is one Jason Statham. He brings such pathos to an otherwise vacuous and soulless affair. You really feel for him as he stares into the eyes of a photo of his daughter. There’s a quiet sincerity in his performance that’s just too good for such a shitty movie. He’s so real that he just draws you in.
Oh, David Carradine has a cameo in the beginning as the voice of Frankenstein. That was actually kind of cool.
So yeah, Death Race fucking sucks. But it sucks in a very good way, namely Jason Statham. This is the kind of film you’ll want to turn your brain off, grab some popcorn (and possibly and large bag of narcotics), and sit back and laugh your ass off with a bunch of friends. It so unintentionally bad and funny. I would watch it again in a big group with lots of munchies to go around. I would recommend you wait for NETFLIX or rental.
So there! That’s me! I’m shitting on the fucking sidewalk!