By Fred Topel | Image property of Universal Pictures
Well, for a movie that reduces every potentially creative idea to the standard of sci-fi mediocrity, Death Race is pretty fun. It's oddly satisfying, even though it does everything wrong.
Review: Death Race
The setup is like "Thanks for treating me like I've never seen a sci-fi movie before." Yeah, things get rough in the future and, gasp, they actually treat the lives of prisoners like frivolous entertainment. Really it's just Driven if it were Doomsday.
It's so dry that it's a B-movie unintentionally. They have the money, but they take it so seriously it doesn't look like anyone's having fun. Except for Ian McShane. He gets it.
They keep talking, answering questions about how things operate, but it's so silly. It's like the filmmakers think it's so brilliant to have armored cars with weapons remotely activated that they relish in their own exposition. They even explain their own jokes, as if the threats and innuendo weren't clear enough.
Even the idea of criminal babes doesn't seem self-aware enough to be funny. It would be hilarious in a Charlie's Angels way to think that of course, in a cinematic world constructed for teenage boys, the inmates of a women's prison were Maxim models. But there's no humor to it. It just feels proud of itself, again, like it's the first time we've ever seen babes.
When the race actually starts though, it works. The crashes are big and loud, there are cool car flips and other neat gadgets. When people bite it, it's a satisfying gory demise, even the ones that are totally telegraphed.
I can't deny that I was into it. It's your basic revenge story against an evil authority, but it's satisfying destruction. Jason Statham can fight too. It's no Transporter but it's brutal.
It must be some kind of movie magic. There is no way a story about an apocalyptic race confined within the walls of a prison should capture my attention. It is such a wasted opportunity. What about the entire world? Why limit all the possibilities to some irrelevant subculture that doesn't impact the outside? Yet there I was, laughing at the deaths and marveling at the stunts.