Posted by: Dr P | August 11, 2008

Death Race

Imagine ridiculous cars jacked up with all kinds of metal extrusions, oil and smoke blaring, outrageous pile-ups, death and mayhem. OK, that’s the M60 on a Friday teatime. Now imagine 10x that and you have “death race”, the frankly ludicrous new adrenaline-pumping fusion of cars, women, Jason Statham, more women, hot cars, weaponry, etc.

OK, the premise. Set a short way into the future, corporations are fighting for television viewers and new ways to entice the public to pay for their broadcasts. Enter a tough jail warden, played superbly by Joan Allen. She offers to put on a series of “death races”, featuring the toughest prison inmates racing over a 3 day series of events; there’s real weaponry, death is guaranteed, and if that’s not enough, there’s the added incentive of an early release for any inmate who manages to survive – and win – 5 races.

The top racer is “Frankenstein”, a mythical masked figure said to have been hideously disfigured in times past (if this is sounding like a WWF script, I’m right with you). He has won 4 races and is therefore right on the verge of winning his freedom. There’s just one slight problem. Frank was actually killed in the finale of his previous race, dying in the prison infirmary after his car had sneaked over the line. With months passing and Death Race viewers leaving en masse, the prison warden comes up with a ghastly plan to gain the folks back – bring Frank back with a new man under the mask. Enter Jason Statham’s character, who just happens to have a background in racing; he is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to the prison where he makes an immediate impression by falling out with some of the prison’s other racers, who also just happen to be the toughest criminals too. Hmmm. Vince McMahon would love this!

As with all good action films, the hero is given assistance in the form of a couple of race team members – the main driving coach is played by Ian McShane, Lovejoy to many of us; however, there are no antiques in the garage, just 3 tons of ridiculous weaponry and armour that passes as a car! These cars have all the typical Bond gadgets, such as flame throwers, oil and smoke, machine guns, rockets, whatever – the only catch is that these can only be armed during the race (and obviously not in the garage otherwise that’d be a bit of a problem for the guards).

With news of “Frank”‘s return, ratings of course shoot up on the programme, and this interest only grows as Statham makes it through the first race in one piece; is the prison warden going to live up to her word and set him free? Is she buggery! His car is sabotaged and his co-driver (of whom more soon) is under instruction to kill him if there’s any chance of him winning the final race.

OK, another twist. The co-drivers in the races are all taken from the nearby female prison … and of course to aid ratings they’re all hot as hell! Statham was of course formerly engaged to our very own Kelly “Babbling” Brook, so he’s no stranger to attractive airheads.

Statham discovers just who was responsible for his wife’s murder at some point during the races and manages to bump off the assassin. He knows the warden was ultimately responsible though, and so sets in motion a series of plans designed to try and ensure his freedom and also bring down the brutal regime. Whether or not that succeeds is not for me to say!

In order to get the most out of this film, I’d recommend having a few drinks before you see it. It might help if you drink all the way through it as well. It’s hilarious fun, the premise is wicked, the acting is worse, the stunts are crazy, and there is even a moment where you want to jump up and scream “hell yeahhhhh”! No, that’s the end. As an actual film it’s appalling, as an adrenaline-fueled 100 minutes it is fantastic. Just leave your brain at the door!

Definitely one for the boys!


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