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  Publicity Stills of
"Death Race"
(Courtesy of UIP)

Genre: Action
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson, Ian McShane, Natalie Martinez, Jason Clarke, Frederick Koehler, Jacob Vargas, Max Ryan, Robin Shou
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Official Website: http://www.deathracemovie.net/

Opening Day: 21 August 2008


Jason Statham leads the cast of an action-thriller set in the post-industrial wasteland of tomorrow, with the world's most brutal sporting event as its backdrop. A penitentiary full of felons has inspired the jailers to create a grisly pastime ripe for lucrative kickbacks. Now, adrenalized inmates, a global audience hungry for televised violence and a spectacular arena come together to form the "Death Race."

Three-time speedway champion Jensen Ames (Statham) is an expert at survival in the harsh landscape that has become our country. Just as he thinks he has turned his life around, the ex-con is framed for a gruesome murder he didn't commit. Forced to don the mask of the mythical driver Frankenstein -- a crowd favorite who seems impossible to kill -- Ames is given an easy choice by Terminal Island's warden (Joan Allen): suit up or rot away in a cell.

His face hidden by a metallic mask, one convict will be put through an insane three-day challenge. Ames must survive a gauntlet of the most vicious criminals in the country's toughest prison to claim the prize of freedom. Driving a monster car outfitted with machine guns, flamethrowers and grenade launchers, one desperate man will destroy anything in his path to win the most twisted spectator sport on Earth.

Movie Review:

We all know Jason Statham can act behind the wheel of an automobile. After all, he's the quintessential Transporter who has done The Italian Job, and flexes enough muscles to waltz into any role requiring a hunky beefcake. He lets his fists do the talking when declaring War, and looks ever so stern when emoting that you need to Crank the AC to cool him off, and has enough cunning left over from The Bank Job to hatch yet another plan to get out of the rut he's currently thrown into for a Death Race.

The original movie was produced by B-grade king Roger Corman, and had David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone in starring roles as Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe respectively. But this remake is a totally different film altogether, only porting over the names of some of the lead characters, and the concept of souped up cars zhnged with weapons of highway destruction, ranging from machine guns firing infinite bullets, to oil slicks, smoke screen and napalm for added oomph in blowing opponents sky high.

Instead of a race cross-country in year 2000 USA, Paul W.S. Anderson's version updates it to year 2012 set in a stand alone penitentiary, run by private corporations whose objective is to make money from organizing gladiatorial matches amongst promising speed demon inmates. Naturally, Statham's Jensen Ames, an ex race car driver with pedigree credentials, gets framed for a murder he didn't commit, just to get him into the Terminal, donning the famous iron-mask of Frankenstein, the legendary race car driver who has one final race to go before being granted his freedom.

Organized by the alpha-female type prison warden Hennesssey played by Joan Allen, who obtained her street cred for such characters from the Bourne franchise (but frankly, what is she doing here?), her sole aim is to allow the myth of Frankenstein to live, while milking money from internet streaming broadcasts. If this sounds familiar, then yes, Anderson had probably drawn inspiration from movies such as The Running Man, to something more recent in The Condemned. Does Statham do a good job in the lead action hero role as compared to his earlier peers? Well, the fan in me would say yes, because there is a serious dearth of action heroes in Hollywood right now.

But the rival drivers are laughable cameos at best. Only worth mentioning are Tyrese Gibson, who had likely landed himself here from experience out of 2 Fast 2 Furious looking mean and dangerous, and I guess Mortal Kombat fans would probably chuckle at Robin Shou's brief appearance since he's no longer flavour of the moment, whose lines only consists of swearing in Cantonese. The rest just contribute to the body count, in set action sequences similar to that in Speed Racer, only without the psychedelic colours decorating the background, and going unabashedly loud.

I might seem to have been just name dropping a lot from movies in the past, but that's basically how Death Race felt, like a mishmash of generic characters thrown into generic action. Perhaps the targeted demographics for the film will rejoice at having another Mikaela Banes type character here, where Natalie Martinez with her sultry looks akin to Megan Fox provide just enough eye candy and spunk, especially when her Case cuts a lean figure on the race track, with inside knowledge of short cuts and navigational/co-gunner skills to boot. After all, every mean looking car requires a flower vase to complement it, right?

Cars, babes and plenty of huge guns. Now isn't that formula for a high-octane killer death match race car movie set to a pulsating hip-hop soundtrack? Unless of course it also contains unintentionally comedic and nonsensical lines of dialogue, and loopholes to drive a huge truck through (erm, yes, there really was a huge truck).

Movie Rating:

Review by Stefan Shih

(Leave your brains at the door if you intend to enjoy the guilty pleasures of a cliche ride)


. Speed Racer (2008)

. The Bank Job (2008)

. Death Proof (2007)

. The Condemned (2007)

. Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

. DOA: Dead or Alive (2006)

. The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

. The Island (2005)

. Chaos DVD (2005)



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