Judge David Johnson set fire to his Matchbox car out of protest.
The rules are simple. Drive or die.
Hey! This is now a franchise…I guess.
Facts of the Case
Frankenstein (Luke Goss, Blade II) is back and he's poised to earn his freedom from prison, thanks to a dominant performance on the Death Race circuit. But that would be bad for business and the Neanderthals in charge of the Death Race refuse to let their most popular commodity walk without compensation. To ensure he feels the full force and pain of what a "Death Race" really means, Frankenstein and his dedicated pit crew are dropped into an epic cross-country race across the Kalahari Desert where there are no rules! (Except for a bunch of rules.)
At this point, all vestiges of the Roger Corman cult classic have been properly sandblasted out of the DNA of the current Death Race treatment. That means: no humor, no subtext, no subversion, no fun.
What we're dealing with here is a straight, up-its-own-tailpipe action film; big, noisy, and exhaust-soaked. Admittedly, I didn't loathe the Jason Statham-powered reboot and while Death Race 2 stunk, at least it had some semi-compelling action. Those movies were slick and soulless, but sporadically entertaining and never felt like they were overstaying their welcome. That feeling is officially out the hatchback for thsi third go-round, as Death Race 3 has officially entered jalopy status.
At first glance, the premise isn't terrible. A giant desert, a bunch of jackholes tearing it up in heavily-modified futuristic battle vehicles, lots of explosions, and Danny Trejo grimacing. That's got to be worth a little bit of entertainment, right? That's what I was banking on. Sadly, I must report that no amount of Danny Trejo grimacing can rescue what is ultimately a loud and tedious chore.
Death Race 3 feels like an action movie checklist generated by suits.
SUIT 1: Hey, let's make another Death Race movie!
SUIT 2: Great idea! I love the way you think!
SUIT 3: But what's it gonna be about?
SUIT 2: What should we put in it?
SUIT 1: How about a big fight scene with girls in leather?
SUIT 3: Why are girls in leather fighting?
SUIT 2: Shut up. That sounds awesome!
SUIT 1: What else do we want in it?
SUIT 2: Some bad-ass chick taking out a tank in slow motion.
SUIT 1: Yes! (fist-bump)
SUIT 3: How will that work as far as the physics—?
SUIT 2: No one cares.
SUIT 3: Fine, let's just put crazy stuff in this movie and not worry about an engaging or coherent narrative! Why don't we include…oh, I don't know, a scene where Danny Trejo is getting fellated?
SUITS 1 AND 2: Yes!
In fairness, Death Race 3: Inferno attempts to spin itself away from its trudging action sentiments with a big twist at the end. In fact, it's more than a twist, as the final ten minutes are devoted to a sustained Ocean's Eleven reveal. I suppose it's sort of clever, but I have to admit, by that point I had lost complete interest.
There's a lot of stuff going on with this Blu-ray, starting with a strong 1.78:1/1080p transfer that pumps out the mayhem and its desert tableau with serious pop. The high-performance picture quality is joined by a loud, rambunctious DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Plus, we get a pile of extras: an alternate opening, featurettes on the vehicles and the acting chops of Goldberg, deleted scenes, a director's commentary, and a making-of documentary.
More cars, more glowering, more explosions, and more boredom.
Time to call AAA.
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Scales of Justice
• R-rated Version
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