I’ve always secretly liked Paul WS Anderson as a director, ever since I saw Mortal Kombat (there can only be one). I even liked Soldier, with Kurt Russell playing a near-autistic killing machine trying to function in a normal human society. Resident Evil was a good film. Let’s not mention Aliens vs Predator here, though. Anyway, Death Race is a decent B-grade SF film, enjoyable but let down by the stupidity of the villain/the race logistics and the stupidity of the ending.
In Death Race, the world is so jaded only bloodsports can entertain the masses. Jason Statham, playing Lead Character, looks like a heavily muscled bulldog, radiating a delectable raw machismo. Lead Character is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit! He has to DEATH RACE for his freedom! And so, cue heavily plated armoured cars racing against each other, shooting each other with machine guns (and rockets, in the last stage).
Anyway, if you think about it too hard, the plot and world-building sort of collapses (if the economic collapse means everyone is so poor, how can they afford the pay-for-view death races?) Hennessy, the Evil Corporate/Network Schill running the Death Race is losing ratings. Her operation could stand to learn a few things from years of sports/wrestling events. The racers are killed off too quickly for the audience to build a rapport with them and then Hennessy makes this even worse by killing more death racers with an Armoured Truck of Doom. There’s no ‘branding’; just car-nage that continually escalates. No wonder ratings are dropping. I can’t believe that in the year 2012, American network TV has forgotten how to stage massive, pay-for-view wrestling-like events. Truly, the world is a sad place.
And in the the end, I kept waiting for the ‘escape’ to have been rigged as a ratings booster, but it wasn’t. Hennessy becomes a bit of a straw villain, whose only motivation was to kill all of the racers as she hated them all and wanted them to die and hoped that this would temporarily boost ratings. The inescapable prison was escaped with a couple of fast cuts that glossed over salient plot points (how did Lead Character find his daughter again?)
Anyway, recommended if you like muscled men, squat armoured cars and lots of cool guns going off and violence. (Oh, there’s a semi-nude female lead if you’re into that kind of thing, too.) It made me wanted to place the video game afterwards, if only I could find my copy of Twisted Metal Black.