Universal // 2011 // 101 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 17th, 2011
Running on empty.
Hey, while you were watching Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race, were you asking yourself: "I wonder how all this came to be? Is there any chance someone will be able to share the origin story with me at some point?" Congrats! Your wish has been granted!
Carl Lucas (Luke Goss) gets tossed into prison for accessory to murder. It's rough spot, mainly because a private corporation runs the prison instead of the government and, naturally, that means death fights between convicts are scheduled on Pay-Per-View. Tossed into the middle of the competition, Luca proves himself a worthy competitor -- so worthy he is tapped to participate in the evolution of the competition, as the corporation takes it from death fight to death race.
And so it is, about an hour into the movie, we finally get our first glimpse of muscle cars with weaponry attached to the chassis.
Why does this movie exist? And I'm not talking about Death Race 2, which would be a sequel to first Death Race. I'm referring to Death Race 2 the prequel to Death Race, a story that absolutely doesn't need to be told. Who cares how Death Race started?! Who cares about the corporate shenanigans and the backroom plotting and politicking and the boring fight scenes? Give me death racing!
I didn't have a huge problem with Death Race. Sure it lacked the charm and camp of Roger Corman's original, but taken as a hard-R, bombastic action film where tough guys drive post-apocalyptic jalopies at high speeds and empty thousands of 50 cal rounds into other guys, the remake was amusing enough. So it was with a moderate amount of anticipation that I spooled up this follow-up, thinking that a sequel -- as most sequels do -- would amp up the spectacle established by the predecessor.
Nope. Instead of a passable, trashy straight-to-home-video action-fest that could have easily been deemed a successful Friday night's worth of viewing, someone inexplicably thought the target demographic for a movie about murderers driving kill machines wanted to see an origin story.
I ask again: who cares? Who cares how Joan Allen's character from the fist movie whose name I can't remember got her job? Who cares how the corporate d-bags brainstormed the idea for the race? And, finally, who cares about the origin of Frankenstein? If memory serves, he wasn't a major player in the first film. Here, he's treated like Darth Vader. Big deal. Just give me cars and explosions!
To be fair, eventually that gear kicks in, but you're going to have to wait until the final third of the movie. Once the diesel starts burning, non of the chase scenes, sadly, measure up to even the weakest of those found in Death Race. It's all very loud of course and there is swearing and shouting and herky-jerky camera work and close-ups on the comely female co-drivers' cleavage, but there's nothing you haven't seen before. In fact what you've seen before -- specifically in the first movie -- is leaps and bounds better and those action set pieces were exactly world-beaters.
Even as you suffer mild disappointment about how dopey this movie is, I submit you'll be impressed with the technical merits of the Blu-ray. The 1.78:1, 1080p transfer is a knock-out, highly detailed and dynamic, even if the overwhelming color tone is gunmetal gray. The races, dull as they may be, are kinetic and the visual fidelity keeps pace nicely. A fantastic picture quality all around. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is suitably aggressive, a quake-maker during the louder moments at the end.
Extras: Commentary from director Roel Reine, featurettes on the cars and the stunts, a breezy making-of documentary, and deleted scenes. The two-minute longer unrated version is also included.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, but the movie is a waste of everyone's time.
Guilty. Off to the scrap-yard.
Review content copyright © 2011 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Rated R Version
* Deleted Scenes