Sunday, September 07, 2008


Death Race is the latest in the action sub-genre where humans from a dystopian future get hooked on hyper-violent TV game shows: The Condemned, Battle Royale, Wrong Turn 2, The Running Man, Series 7, and the original Death Race 2000. Same story, same dull result. They just keep pushing the fictional time stamp up... 2000... 2012... 2017. It's humorous that none of these films ever whip themselves around with enough edginess to take a look at this "social commentary" from the audience's perspective. What we're left with is the director getting off on showing us his gameshow kill daydreams.

[NOTE: To be fair, the original Death Race is a fine film and does the best at tackling this conceit, poking fun at media personalities - commentators, sportscasters - and their phony objectivity].

Paul W.S. Anderson helms this remake, and just like his Resident Evil trilogy the best thing about Death Race is in the casting of the lead. Jason Statham, like Milla Jovavich as Alice, is a sexual force of an action star with a moral code that rides up his spine. Lately, he's had a bad run with In The Name of the King, War, The Bank Job, and now Death Race, but he's been entertaining in all. (With Transporter 3 and Crank 2 coming in late '08 or early next year, Statham is sure to rebound. Those two franchises are ideal for his type of soft-shelled machismo.)

Anderson is similar to fellow fanboy whipping post Uwe Boll (really, shouldn't the fannies aim for someone like George Lucas, instead of Boll or Anderson, at this point?) in that the amount of leg work put into writing, producing, and directing his own projects is admirable. However, the finished products always come off so listless. Honestly, there's not much separation between Resident Evil and Death Race; take the shell off and you've really got identical innards. Once again the villain is "the corporation" - this time with a boring Joan Allen as the capitalist svengali behind the online subscription juggernaut.

Like other divisive buzz words ("neo-con", "socialist", "evangelical", "muslim") that are often misused and tossed into screeds and salvos to ignite uproar when the speaker/writer has lost their way - or never had one - , "the corporation" has become another boogeyman term that makes one's eyes roll with each heavy-handed dose. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if upcoming generations start taking "the corporation" for a proper noun... like, the Earth, the Grand Canyon, or the Tim McGraw.

Had a pop impresario like Louis Leterrier, Jon Chu, or Pierre Morel directed Death Race it could've kept its preachy tones while still having fun. Further, I think of someone with slapstick sophistication like Edgar Wright following in the footsteps of the original and even improving on it. Ah well... it's bad, but harmless bad. You could do worse, like Pineapple Express.


sir jorge said...

Pineapple Express worse than Death Race?

I don't even know what to say.

Fox said...

"Thank you for warning me." or "Right on!", perhaps?

I can't gauge if you've seen it yet.

WaywardJam said...

I have yet to watch Death Race.

I groaned when I saw the trailer and it's shallow resemblance to the original. I knew it couldn't top that one's cheesy goodness.

Still, I like Statham too much to deny him my money. Crank 2!!!

Pineapple was just ok to me, so that's high praise for DR.

elgringo said...

Somewhere (perhaps this blog?) I ran across an interview with the director going on and on about how they wrote Allen's role to be extra good. He said that it had to be good to attract someone as talented as Joan Allen.

Any chance her role was be shining light to be found at the end of this cinematic tunnel?

Fox said...

Wayward -

Dude, I can't wait for Crank 2. It might be my "House Bunny" for '09, meaning I can't stop anticipating it and it's gonna have unbelievable expectations around it. From me, at least.


I won't ... UH HUM ... talk about The House Bunny anymore since you ... UH HUM ... yeah.

I heard some people say the same thing about Allen. Like, "Hmm, that movie looks bad... but Joan Allen's in it."

I can definitely see the appeal in playing that character. I guess it has "villain appeal", but it's not much different than her Bourne roles... which I'm not a fan of either, but that's a whole other day.

Evan Derrick said...

Props for getting "Tim Mcgraw" into a review of Death Race. That, my friend, takes skillz.

But in you're list of "directors who could've" you missed the best, most obvious choice: Paul Verhoeven. Imagine him applying his pitch black perspective on violence to Death Race. Much more interesting.

Reel Whore said...

I'm with you there. I'm in the 'Chev Died' camp. I will go opening night just to see how they explain it.

Plus Amy Smart returns, maybe there'll be some FedEx fornication this time around.

Fox said...


Very good call. Verhoeven could of made it pop, like something inbetween Robocop and Starship Troopers. Although it would be interesting to see if he could work with Statham. Not that he "couldn't", but Statham seems to go after something more direct in his roles.

Wayward -

Come on! Chev is totally still alive! I mean, he opened his eyes and his heart gave a beat before the screen went black. I mean, yes, it's inconceivable,... but it's CRANK!!!

The Amy Smart scene caught me way off guard. I mean, sweet little Amy Smart? I'm hoping that by talking around this moments that I will talk more people into giving Crank a chance! :o)

Reel Whore said...

I loaned my copy of Crank to my sis last weekend. She wasn't interested, but I told her, you watched Dentist 2: Brace Yourself, this will be phenomenal by comparison.

Sweet Amy surprised me lots, esp. when "aiding" Chev during the car chase.

You think they'll bring back Kaylo-Pedro? It was but a flesh wound after all.