Death Race (2008) - Unrated

Genre(s): Action / Science Fiction / Thriller
Universal || Unrated - 111 minutes - $29.98 || December 31, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-02-12


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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

.:: 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:
  • Feature Commentary
  • 2 Featurettes


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race is probably the most ridiculous and most inane racing movie since The Fast and the Furious, but lord help me, I enjoyed nearly every second even if the plot holes were big enough to drives a heavily armored, armed to the teeth truck through.

The year is 2012 and the U.S. economy has completely collapsed. Unemployment is at a record high and with it, crime rates are through the roof. Federal prisons are unable to handle the criminals and now they are privately owned. “Terminal Island Prison” is one of them and is run with the soft but cruel iron fist of Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen). Their newest resident is Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), a former racing hotshot wrong convicted of the murder of his wife. He soon learns that he was handpicked to go to this prison because of his racing skillz. Hennessey runs a deadly racing game called, well, “Death Race” where there basically are no rules.

The warden offers Ames the chance at freedom. You see fans of “Death Race”, much like wrestling, has a famous driver known only as Frankenstein (played by David Carradine in a cameo appearance), a man whose face is covered by a mask (due to a horrific previous accident). Well, given Frankenstein is such an icon Hennessey has a problem when he is killed in the latest race by Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson); enter Ames. If he wins a few races he wins his freedom. Plain and simple (yeah, right).

There’s really not much else to the “story”. Add in some hot women, bass-thumping music and deadly crashes (with some nasty/bloody casualties) and you’ve got a movie tailored-made for Spike TV.

Listen, we all know what this movie is and what it is not. Death Race has one-dimensional characters, shaky acting even from some talented actors such as Jason Statham (when given a good script), Joan Allen and the underrated but phenomenal Ian McShane (amazing on “Deadwood”). Even someone like Tyrese Gibson, even for an actor in the same acting league as LL Cool J, is alright mainly because there’s no character there and it’s just him laying out some “bad-ass” lines. But none of them are any match for a screenplay by Paul W.S. Anderson.

Anderson actually isn’t that bad of a writer/director overall, I mean it could be worse; he could be on the same playing field as, oh, Uwe Boll... In actuality even despite a poor screenplay, or plot at least, Anderson manages to put together a kick-ass film. You’re not going to be using any brain power with this one and there are certain days when I can enjoy and appreciate such an endeavor. What I’ve seen of Anderson’s work, he’s pretty mediocre with his talent, but he does releases entertaining films, even if it’s in the “it’s so bad, it’s good” realm. Not sure if Alien vs. Predator fits in there and even Event Horizon had its moments.

Death Race is what it is: a mindless movie that’s not going to pretend to be anything else. This is in the same stupid genre as the likes of The Fast and the Furious or xXx, so you’re opinion on those probably will determine whether Death Race is worth your time or money.

Having only viewed the Unrated Version, I don’t know exactly what’s been added but the time difference is only 6-minutes, which may seem like a lot, but really it could just be some extra dialogue that doesn’t amount to much.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Feature Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Paul W.S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt is a trivia track everything about Death Race, how it came to be, casting, etc.

The DVD also comes with 2 featurettes: Start Your Engines: Making a Death Race (19:42) and Behind the Wheel: Dissecting the Stunts (7:50). These are your basic featurettes but semi-interesting and worth watching if you liked the movie.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Death Race comes to DVD with a 2.35 aspect ratio. The film is generally gritty and grimy so it’s hard to judge just what is meant to be on screen and what’s not. But from what I could tell it looks like a good theatrical-to-DVD transfer.

The audio is OK with some depth especially with the racing scenes and dialogue is clear coming through the center channel while the front and rear speakers are used for a decent home theater experience.



.::OVERALL::.

Death Race is either a movie you’re going to love or hate. If you could even tolerate something like The Fast and the Furious (but much more violent and gritty), then you might want to give this one a shot. The DVD isn’t all that well packed with features but in time you’ll be able to find this relatively cheap and then it will be worth a purchase.