Saturday, September 6, 2008

Review - Death Race

In 2012 the United States prison system has become so over populated that they have begun streaming to the U.S. Death Race. A three part car race where the drivers must kill off the other racers in order to survive and win. Jensen Ames an ex-race car driver is framed for murder and put into Terminal Island where Death Race takes place. He is recruited by the Warden Hennessey to drive as the popular Frankenstein, a normal favorite in Death Race. Ames with the help of his pit crew must survive Death Race and ultimately win to ensure his freedom.

Death Race directed by Paul W.S. Anderson is by far his best film to date, but still is a pretty lackluster film. The miles of gratuitous violence that fills Death Race itself isn't even that enjoyable. What makes the film tolerable is Jason Statham and Ian McShane performances in the action reboot of Death Race 2000. The cars also are only marginally cool, with most of the weapons and defense systems becoming very monotonous by halfway through the film. Paul W.S. Anderson is a director that attaches himself to very cool projects like Death Race, Resident Evil, Alien vs Preadtor, Mortal Kombat and Castlevania that could be box office sensastions but, ultimately misses the mark everytime.

The overall story to Death Race is so predictable it really leaves the viewer with no real suspense to really enjoy the experience. By the end of the film the viewer has already antcipated what will happen, making the film subdued and overall forgetable. There are a few twists towards the end that are pleasing to a certain degree, but it really is hard to define them as twists, because only to a blind man would they seem unexpected. Furthermore, the film really only centers on Jason Statham and Tyrese Gibson leaving all of the other drivers as undesirable characters. The viewer is never allowed to even get to know these other drivers before they are killed off during the races.

Jason Statham and Ian McShane again make the film. Statham who is a personal favorite of mine, gives a typical performance as Jensen Ames, especially behind the wheel of yet another car. I never seem to tire of Statham's schtick and here in Death Race he is definately not Handsome Rob or Frank Martin but, he provides enough action and wit to keep the viewer entertained. Ian McShane the esteemed veteran actor, is always a highlight in any film and here in Death Race as Coach he really adds to the enjoyability of the film. McShane has a voice and a personna that just rubs me the right way and he was perfect as the grizzled pit Coach who just cant seem to leave Terminal Island.

Tyrese Gibson is a shitty actor and here in Death Race he continues his streak! I really hate this guy, he always takes away from a film. His character, Machine Gun Joe, is Jensen Ames rival racer. He has it out for Frankenstein and wants desperately to kill him and win Death Race. The dialogue that Tyrese is given throughout is so bad, it really takes away from every scene he is in. Not to mention that Gibson plays yet again, an over-zealous personality who has the wit of a piece of crap.

Death Race wasn't entirely undesirable, it has a great pace, which isn't hard being only 89 minutes. It is filled with action and has a few great fighting sequences. It is mindless enough that it can be enjoyed and should keep action fans happy with a majority of the kills. Their is one scene when Warden Hennessey releases a new creation on the 2nd leg of the race, it has a devistating capacity and doesn't disappoint in the slightest.

Unfortunately, Death Race was a disappointment. The races were far too similar and I found myself dictating what would happen next. The weapons on the vechiles definately had enough fire-power, but again become so monotonous that by the end of the film your saying, "so what!" The plot is predictable to the point that the finale loses all interest and ultimately I walked away feeling unfulfilled. This is a film that is best waiting for dvd and skipping the theatrical release.