Rating: 1 star
To say that I’m not the target audience for Death Race is a bit like saying that Ray Lewis is not the target audience for Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Suffice it to say, I held up my end of the bargain: I hated this loud, violent, retrograde movie, a remake of the Roger Corman sci-fi B-movie Death Race 2000.
The year, curiously enough, is 2012. (A sly joke that the world will be radically altered in four years? Or, more likely, the byproduct of a budget too low to get properly futuristic?). Corporations have taken over the prison system and are staging vicious car races to the death for online and television viewing pleasure. The evil prison warden, played by a seriously slumming Joan Allen, presides over the event in power suits and a scowl. Any resemblance to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is strictly intentional. Ugh.
Into this mix comes former race car drive Jenson Ames (Jason Statham), who is accused of killing his wife. (We know it was the prison warden’s henchman who actually did the deed.)
A few words about Jason Statham: This guy is turning into a major movie star and I simply don’t see the appeal. Bald, pumped up, and ready to rumble, he’s like a (British) Bruce Willis, but without the charm. In the last two films I’ve seen him in (this and The Bank Job, which was pretty great, by the way), he’s been paired with an impossibly fresh-faced wife, as if to convince the audience that he really is a sweet guy beneath that blandly stoic macho routine. I’m not buying it.
You can’t really criticize Death Race for being dumb and cheesy. It’s trying to be a B movie. But last year, there was a similarly slick and in-your-face action flick called Shoot Em Up. At least that film had a sense of irony about itself, some flair, some originality. Death Race is grimly efficient. Even its best parts—Ian McShane as Ames’s world-wise head mechanic, nicknamed Coach—feel half-hearted. McShane gives it a good go, but the dialog he’s contending with (“I love this sport!”) is lame at best. (And don’t even get me started on the inmates from a woman’s prison who arrive—all legs and cleavage and leather—to help the cons in the race).
This is somebody’s idea of a good time. But it sure ain’t mine. And, if I may be so presumptious, it ain't yours either.