When three-time speedway champion Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is framed for murdering his wife, he is sent to Terminal Island, where the country's worst criminals are imprisoned. There he is given the choice by the icy cold warden, Hennessey (Joan Allen) to don the metallic mask of mythical driver, dubbed Frankenstein, and take part in a televised race to the death driving a monster car outfitted with machine guns, flame throwers and grenade launchers. If he refuses, he will never see his baby daughter again, but if he wins, he will be given his freedom. Not only does he have to defeat his keenest opponent Machine Gun Joe Mason (Tyrese Gibson), but all and sundry that play dirty and throw ugly surprises into the race.
Review by Louise Keller:
Delivering on the promise, this update of Roger Corman's Death Race 2000 is an onslaught of the big, the bad and the ugly. The stunts are big, the language is bad (as are the participants) and the mindset is darned ugly as killing is foremost in everyone's mind. As for Joan Allen's warden Hennessey, who plays judge, jury and executioner, she's 'the baddest ass in the yard.' And the yard is filled with the toughest and meanest crims known to man. It's all pretty senseless and senseless is how I felt at the end of it all, after being party to a sadistic and deadly race that relies on the killing of its participants for its entertainment.
Jason Statham looks as though he could play the role of Jensen Ames in his sleep and all credit goes to Statham for making him as interesting as he does. We get to see quite a bit of that body of his, and there is no doubt whatsoever that this man works out! I like Ian McShane's Coach, who primes Ames for the task ahead and Tyrese Gibson is charismatic as Machine Gun Joe Mason, who delights in carving razor notches on his face. Voluptuous Natalie Martinez adds a tough of glamour as Ames' navigator with a mind of her own. Why Oscar nominee Joan Allen took on the role of Hennessey is the most curious question. Her immaculately groomed Hennessey is a terrifying creature who stands at her window watching the gruelling action as she gives her evil commands. Most incongruous is when she lets fly with the kind of language no lady would speak.
There's the crunch of metal, the squeal of brakes, somersaulting cars that have been modified into ugly monster-like metal contraptions. There are knives, chains, razors, guns and brute force. The race, which is conducted in three stages, is a gruesome affair with gratuitous violence of the worst kind. Director and screenwriter Paul W. S. Anderson throws all the action together with such choppy editing that we often are not sure what is going on and who is in fact winning the race. But the target market of young males will no doubt lap up each lap of this race that is set in the near future, after the collapse of the US economy. Let's hope real life doesn't become as dire.
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DEATH RACE (MA)
CAST: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez, Max Ryan, Jacob Vargas, Jason Clarke, Frederick Koehler
PRODUCER: Paul W. S. Anderson, Paula Wagner, Roger Corman, Jeremy Bolt,
DIRECTOR: Paul W. S. Anderson
SCRIPT: Paul W. S. Anderson (1975 screenplay by Robert Thorn,Charles B. Griffith)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Scott Kevan
EDITOR: Niven Howie
MUSIC: Paul Haslinger
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul D. Austerberry
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 30, 2008