Death Race

Release Date: August 22, 2008

Movie of the Day for Friday, July 25, 2008
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Jason's gang seems to leave something to be desired.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
22/31 John Seal Not as good as the original, but reasonable dumb entertainment
71/196 Max Braden Some decent stunts but it's mostly just noise.

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If there's one thing we can all agree on, I think it's that regardless of gender and sexual orientation, we all wanna get with Jason Statham. That he is a somewhat unlikely sex symbol is precisely what makes him an inevitable one. The latest cinematic excuse for having him take off his shirt every two minutes is Paul W. S. Anderson's Death Race.

Anderson's film is a remake of the cult-ish 1975 movie Death Race 2000. Directed by the late king of camp, Paul Bartel, that film was a broad satire of government and religion, dressed up in the tropes of a '70s car race movie. The remake, somewhat predictably, tones down the satire in favor of more stunts and violence. The target is now Reality TV, which is already so self-parodying, it's sort of like making fun of Mad Magazine at this point.

Death Race is quite similar to The Running Man, with Statham taking the Schwarzenegger role as unjustly imprisoned man seeking revenge. Joan Allen, then, is in the Richard Dawson part as the mastermind behind everything. She runs the prison holding Statham, and, as the trailer gives away so recklessly, set him up as the murderer of his wife, just to boost the ratings of her reality show. Prisoners get a chance at freedom by winning a car race to the death, though the race, of course, is fixed by Allen and her minions. Will Statham clear his name and get his revenge?

I don't know (shh, let's just play along), but I do know there is a supporting turn by Ian McShane, famous utterer of colorful slang terms for oral sex on HBO's Deadwood. McShane plays a mechanic who is sympathetic to Statham's cause and rigs up a doozy of a fightin' car. Also along for the ride is Tyrese Gibson, a crazed fellow prisoner looking to escape.

Anderson gets a lot of flack on fanboy sites for making mediocre movies, like the Resident Evil flicks, Soldier, and Alien vs. Preadator. But… okay, I don't have any "buts" to add here – those are just some awful movies. If there's any hope, it's that he's working with a much better cast than usual. Allen alone classes up the joint, and looks to be having a blast being a soulless baddie. And Statham himself has gained a reputation of being a real actor, thanks more to films like The Bank Job than In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. He has a far-reaching appeal that makes him the perfect everyman for these types of movies. Though he sure does drive a lot in his films… (Shane Jenkins/BOP)

Vital statistics for Death Race
Main Cast Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson
Supporting Cast Ian McShane, Natalie Martinez, Jason Clarke
Director Paul W.S. Anderson
Screenwriter J.F. Lawton, Paul W.S. Anderson
Distributor Universal Pictures
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating R
Screen Count 2,531
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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