Death Race (2008) - Unrated [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Science Fiction / Thriller
Universal || Unrated - 105 minutes - $39.98 || December 31, 2008
Reviewer: Brad Lowenberg || Posted On: 2008-12-15


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer(s): Ib Melchior (1975 story), Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith (1975 screenplay); Paul W.S. Anderson (screen story), Paul W.S. Anderson (screenplay)
Cast: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez


Theatrical Release Date: August 22, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • U-Control
  • Feature Commentary
  • The Making of Death Race
  • Behind the Wheel: Dissecting the Stunts
  • Digital Copy


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

What seems like a film that's taking a page directly out of Universal's flop Doomsday: The film begins in the somewhat near future where most of the government has collapsed and ordinary people are losing their jobs. In the future, private organizations own jails and since they do, they can use their inmates for anything they want. At one point they were streaming live cage fights to America... until they got bored. The next big thing is "Death Race", where inmates get to pimp out a car or truck into a death machine and race... all while still staying alive. You see, they get to include guns on these vehicles and the object is not only to be the first person owner the winner line but to take out as many other opponents as possible. The more violence = a bigger paycheck so the Jail simply does not care about your average inmate.

In enters Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) - your normal average guy who just so happens to have been a pretty good driver back in his day. After getting fired from his work, he goes home to see his wife and new born baby girl. Within a few minutes a ninja (!) breaks into his house, kills his wife, and makes it seem like it was Jensen who committed the horrible crime. 6 Months we see Jensen being hauled off to Terminal Island - a giant prison being run by Mrs. Hennessey (Joan Allen). She persuades Jensen to race in her Death Races under the persona "Frankenstein" - a previous racer who was killed but his identity remained secret due to his uniform. He agrees to it and the movie begins with its fairly predictable plot.

Death Race was not a bad film but it just didn't have much plot to it. Within the first few minutes I was able to figure out who killed his wife and why and all the other characters, besides Ames, are just not all that interesting. The general idea of Death Race is nothing new, but I did like the fact that they tried to incorporate a set of rules (running over a Sword drain gave you access to your weapons) to make it seem more like a game and not just some silly races.

Acting felt like a really bad direct-to-video feature. As I said, besides Statham you are left with fairly one-dimensional characters who barely succeed at the role they are given. The female love interest, while attractive, is an absolute joke, and even the bad-ass Warden is not someone to fear.

The film clearly succeeds in the scenes with the death races which show some extreme acts of death, explosions and carnage. Had the film focused a bit more on this and less of the prison story it could have been a much stronger film.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

All features are presented in HD. Also included is a nice shiny embossed slip cover.

U-Control (My Movie Commentary, My Chat, Tech Specs, PiP) - Universal's signature features comes to Death Race and itís not all that great. First up is the dreadful "My Commentary" where you get to, sigh, record your own commentary on the film and upload so others can watch it. Will people actually do this? You can also make your own race... or something like that. The feature is not yet available to reviewers. That's followed by "My Chat" where you can chat with your friends while watching the film via your remote (woo hoo!). The final two features are actually pretty neat - a "Tech Specs" feature where you get some information on the characters and their rides and then it concludes with some various interviews from the cast and crew.

Commentary with Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt

Start Your Engines: Making of Death Race (20 Minutes) - A fairly informative Making of which goes a bit into casting as well as the trials of the film. Worth a watch.

Behind the Wheel: Dissecting the Stunts (8 Minutes) - The best part of the features is showing off how some of these incredible stunts were done. This feature does not disappoint as these death race scenes were by far the best.

And finally, a Digital Copy.

This film is also Universals first D-Box Motion enabled disc for those that have the $10,000 chair.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Death Race is presented in 2.35:1 (AVC/MPEG-4) on a 50GB Disc. This might not be one of Universal's fines Day and dates on Blu-ray, but itís still better than a few other studios. The film for the most part is very dark, you won't see very many "colors" besides Black, Grey and White so the transfer was exactly what I was expecting - dark and grainy. We still get several splashes of Red when some fellow racers get killed and for the most part you should be happy with this transfer.

Universal steps up again and gives us an English 5.1 DTS MA track that will rattle your house. I don't know what it is, but Universal continues to climb to the top of my page for best Audio of 2008. This track will not disappoint with numerous explosions, guns rattling off and cars gunning it.



.::OVERALL::.

Death Race is worthy of a rental unless you are in love with Jason Statham. The plot is decent and the action intense... but itís not something that has a high re-watch ability factor going for it. The Blu-ray boasts average Picture but some amazing Audio which makes me wonder if Audiophiles will pick it up simply for the race scenes.