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Death Race Review
by Doom and Generalissimo Furioso
guest starring Jason Statham Lover
Choose your own tagline adventure:
What if Knight Rider became Jason Statham and was in a prison and KITT couldn't talk anymore
Rollerball on wheels and with Jason Statham
A really gay episode of the Jeffersons
Roots if it took place in a prison and involved racing
Damn you, Statham! Damn you!
Jason Statham is a great actor, an action star who succeeds on charisma and willingness to do anything, no matter how it'll make him look, a far cry from the prissy primadonna action "heroes" of the decade. Fuck Shia LaBeouf; Jason Statham is the future of cinema. This is not to say all of his movies are pinnacles of stripped down action goodness. While it's true he elevates every film he's in with his presence, he has the habit for making some choices all action stars opt for at some point in their careers. Schwarzenegger did it, Jackie Chan did it, Steven Seagal's entire career was it. It's only natural Statham started filling his dance card with utter dross. But I never thought he'd wind up in a Paul W.S. Anderson film. Yes, that Paul W.S. Anderson. What results is Death Race, a strange bird set four years from now in a dystopia of overcrowded prisons and economic collapse, where people can only escape the drudgery of their shitty lives by living vicariously through lurid and shameless reality television. Jason Statham doing a documentary is just as jarring as him joining forces with Paul With Sympathy Anderson.
For those of you who aren't into movies like I am (I've seen more obscure, awesome movies than any of you combined times infinity kajillion), you probably don't know that Death Race is based off a 1975 movie named Death Race 2000 directed by Roger Corman back when he was still tolerable. I used the term based off loosely because there are only three familiar elements between the two movies; 1) It has cars, 2) People die, 3) Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe are characters. However, Death Race 2000 wasn't just Twisted Metal with Tyrese, it was more like Carmaggedon where the racer who causes the most collateral damage is the winner. Not to mention the fact that Death Race 2000 was a warning of how easily society can revert to savagery, whereas Death Race has the message of "violence shouldn't be entertainment, unless it is (like right now), in which case that's okay". Oh, and Machine Gun Joe is played by Sylvester Stallone in the original, with Frankenstein being played by David Carradine (who reprises the role in the first five minutes of this shitfest). Watch it, seriously, it's a good movie. Guys, seriously.
Hey, all of those things are happening now! This isn't science fiction!
Death Race doesn't live up to the original if you expected the remake to mimic the original in terms of quality. Jason Statham plays Jensen Ames, an ex-race car driver and recently fired steel mill worker (in one of the opening scenes a riot at a gay steel mill occurs for absolutely no reason) who nonetheless leads a good life because of the love of his wife and daughter. You can tell he loves them because he carries around pictures of them. (That's the only way you can show you care.) Until tragedy occurs. See, in the future, deciding to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon is punishable by ninja. That's a future I can live with. In fact, I want that instituted in the present day pronto. But for Ames, it means his wife is brutally murdered, he's knocked out and he wakes next to his wife's corpse. In the future of 2012, that's enough evidence. (In 2008, that's only evidence enough if the guy is black, obviously.) A trial later and he finds himself in prison, with his daughter in the foster care system (which, according to The Shield, is worse than death). One of the few ways inmates in the particular prison Ames is sent to can get out prematurely is by participation in a car combat race called, of course, Death Race. Ames inherits the role of the masked racer Frankenstein when promised his freedom after one race. Problem is it's all a sham to give false hope to prisoners created by Joan Allen, who plays Hillary Clinton, a tough as nails warden who doesn't like swearing but does like putting inmates in Death Race. Her favored guard is played by either Quentin Tarantino or disturbing moon man Mac Tonight. I don't know what the fuck is going on.
Clinton's such a bitch. In fact, she even hired a guy to frame him for his wife's murder in order to get Ames' talent in her little racket. Perhaps Obama supporters put this together in order to make Hillary look unelectable, then shunted it into August since Clinton fucked up her own campaign. Anyway, Death Race introduces a lot of characters, none of whom are at all interesting, like Tyrese the gay Machine Gun Joe, a love interest for Jason Statham (the Death Racers use female navigators in order to let the viewers masturbate to both chicks and violence), Al Swearengen, Escobar Gallardo, Andrew Schillinger (who looks like Guenter Schulz and is also dressed like a little boy), and a bunch of generic prisoners who may or may not have been on Oz. We spent more time playing "find the supporting character from one of those shows we watch" than paying attention to the goddamn idiotic plotline, which is basically Rollerball 2: Less rolling, more cars. Same popular sport that breeds corruption once the desire for higher ratings becomes too great, same group of one white guy, one black guy, one girl seeking to overthrow the system of rigged sport, same shitty direction. The main difference is there's no night vision scene in Death Race, nor incomprehensible use of ridiculous cartoon sound effects. This movie could've actually used those elements to make the viewing experience funnier.
Is he reading The Little Book of Calm? Also, why does he look like Beast before he sprouts blue fur?
One of the aspects that makes Death Race completely intolerable is that it tries to implement things normally reserved for video games in a cinematic movie-film format. Yes, much like WMAC Masters, there's all sorts of pointless things like power-ups and racer bios inserted into the film in a vain attempt to add character. It's pretty fucking obvious that this was done to try and convince people that something was going to happen that you weren't going to expect, except that everything happens exactly like you think it will. Uh oh, Hillary Clinton turns off the power-ups so that the racers can't use their weapons against the guards or the prison walls, MAKES SENSE TO ME. When it becomes evident she won't be willing to let Jason Statham leave the game alive, she turns off some video game bullshit to give other racers an advantage over him. For Christ's sake, you'd think that after 20 years of existing, people would figure out that this sort of shit doesn't belong in movies. Of course, this does come from the director of Mortal Kombat and like 7 Resident Evil movies, so evidently Anderson is incapable of learning new information, like Guy Pearce in Memento.
Good, now people can masturbate to the movie without feeling gay.
A few actors do okay, like the reliable Ian McShane (I don't think he says "cocksucker", though, which sucks), but it's a rather dire, serious without being good piece of shit. Action scenes are slightly better, in that the fist fights Statham gets into look like they actually hurt as opposed to being wire fu nonsense, with a lot of explosions and bad CGI to appeal to the retards. The brutality doesn't compare to Oz, though, which is sad considering that show was on a decade ago. Tyrese and Statham team up to take down Death Race. It feels like it takes forever, and it contains such stupid plot machinations like the love interest pretending to be Frankenstein because the warden signed her release papers, so they have to let her go. Not if she commits another crime, idiot. Near the end, when Hillary Clinton is pissed off, she curses profusely despite professing to not liking cursing! What a shift! The ending is pretty hilarious, with Statham, Tyrese, Statham's love interest and Statham's daughter (I like the idea that he kidnapped his daughter and killed the foster parents) living on the run in Mexico. It's such a bizarre ending, them making up an artificial family, living in Mexico. Also, Coach says "I love this game" to the camera when Hillary Clinton and Mac Tonight's roost explodes. Those are the two best things in this junk. Oh, wait, one more thing. In the credits, a disclaimer tells viewers not to try any of the stunts or driving outlined in the film. People so stupid to mimic Death Race deserve to get injured and die.
Death Race first came into being in Texas in 1996.
Death Race is a solid idea executed poorly thanks to a predictable plot with flat characters and shitty writing. Like, the reason Ames finds out who really killed his wife is that the guy who killed her made a certain hand gesture, repeated by someone in jail who happens to be another Death Racer. I fucking hate those kind of mysteries because it's not like there's a hand gesture totally unique that it couldn't be a coincidence. Pretending your hand is a gun is something many people do. Really, the main problem is the utter seriousness Anderson uses for a tone, when something about prisoners being offered freedom if they participate in a vehicular combat race that's an incredibly popular pay per view program in an economically destroyed United States. Come on, that premise screams satire, yet nothing of the sort occurs. Well, I guess "reality TV is faked for the sake of ratings and producers often don't have the best interests of the contestants at heart" might qualify as satire for the dunderhead target audience. Without anything that resembles fun, Death Race just comes off as Wacky Races if everyone took everything way too seriously. Come on, it stars a guy in a mask named Frankenstein who drives a ridiculous tricked out Ford Mustang. Like everything else Paul W.S. Anderson, a cheesy, campy premise is stripped of its wackiness, resulting in drab, forgettable trash.
For a counter-point, here's a person who may or may not have a deeply unsettling obsession with Jason Statham. Oh, hell, they call themselves "Jason Statham Lover". Of course the obsession is unsettling, unhealthy and undeserving unless you qualify Statham love to occur in a vacuum of Guy Ritchie films and Crank.
Man, Jason Statham is such a kickass action hero! I mean, come on, he's fucking awesomeness in a can if they had the balls to ever even sell or market awesomeness in a can! You guys are haters if you do not recognize Death Race is a great movie. I mean, sure, the script is shitty and the directing subpar, but come on, STATHAM! He was in like every scene, which is where he needs to be all the time. He killed a lot of dudes as well, and got into a lot of fights. No, I'm not sexually attracted to him, I just think he's awesome because he's awesome and everything he does is great, even though most of the movies he stars in aren't very good. I may masturbate to his movies, sure. But I do that because the movies are awesome, not because I want Jason Statham inside my ass. These are just normal heterosexual urges that normal heterosexuals have. It's normal to be aroused by the scene where Statham is naked and hit by a water cannon. That's normal shit. Look, man, I'm no fag, I have a girlfriend. It's just obvious Jason Statham are fucking awesome, he's fucking awesome, and if he doesn't let me be his best friend I'll do the normal thing and place him in a giant glass jar, where I'll be able to watch him and bask in his awesomeness for the rest of my Stathamful life.
Well, that was certainly...something...by someone...who will never write for this fucking site again, the goddamn freak.
Oh, Ian McShane, you almost make this worthwhile.
As Anderson doesn't know any better, or how to make a film, Death Race piles up more clichés than...well, I was gonna do a NASCAR joke, but fuck that. The amusing/weird thing is that Anderson gene slams clichés from many different movies and also different kinds of movies. You've got the perfect family torn apart by outside circumstances, the older prisoner who's seen it all and has spent so much time in prison he can't relate to modern society, sure. But goddamn if the steel mill scene doesn't resemble Thatcher's England. Andrew Schillinger basically plays a lo fi version of Rain Man, lo fi in that he helpfully gives exposition instead of, say, counting toothpicks. The moments that don't come from replication of any number of bad prison dramas establish how utterly moronic Paul W.S. (who wrote the script too) is, like a conversation between Statham and Hillary Clinton. He asks if she can get his license back when she mentions she can help him race. What fucking good would that do, idiot? You're a lifer in jail. Also, the guards wield assault rifles even in the cafeteria, which is a stupendously terrible idea considering how easily a prison could get their hands on that rifle in a scuffle. Christ, even Oz, with its Greek chorus narration and aging pills, is more realistic about prison. Another moment that I found hilarious: Clinton at one point suggests maybe his daughter would be better off living with foster parents. Later, he proves her wrong...living with his daughter and Tyrese in a Mexican junkyard. I think the kid even sleeps in a car. It's a fate worse than Trailer Park Boys!
It's not gay for two guys to live in a Mexican junkyard together. NOT GAY AT ALL
Death Race could've been fun if done right. Unfortunately, Paul W.S. Anderson isn't the person for it since he's a terrible cretin whose greatest accomplishment was convincing Milla Jovovich to spread her legs for him. Then again, she's a former model who obviously doesn't know much about filmmaking, despite her lovely voice and Dazed and Confused. I'm sure a peckerwood like Anderson could convince her to suck his dick if he pretended Resident Evil was a transcendent performance of hers. Fuck this shit. It wasn't even fun when drinking, a cardinal sin for a shitty movie to commit.
How many drinks do I need for this to be good?: 289