Monday, January 17, 2011

Death Race 2 and Building Vehicular Frankensteins: A Movie Review

Director: Roel Reine.

Writers: Paul W. S. Anderson and Tony Giglio.

Moonlighting Films is the production company who is bringing Death Race 2 to Blu-ray and DVD January 18th. In case you are not familiar with the series, Death Race (2008) was a remake of Roger Corman's film, titled Death Race 2000 (1975). Now, Death Race 2 is a prequel to both the 1975 and 2008 film, with director Roel Reine's (Wolf Town) latest film investigating the origins of the mysterious character Frankenstein. Action crafting zealout Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil) co-wrote this film's script with Tony Giglio (Timber Falls), much like the 2008 version. This straight-to-video endeavour gives the blood-thirsty fans what they want; scantily clad women parade around before exploding on impact, and Death Race 2 harkens back to the time of Gladiatorial Roman Arenas. But here, there are 20,000 rounds of ammunition to be expended before the end credits role.

The plot is similar to the 2008 film, with a vicious bank robber (Luke Goss) arrested and sent to the notorious Terminal Island. This locale is more than an allusion to events to come and here, the Weyland Corporation wages war on those they are sworn to protect, the prisoners. Goss' character Carl Lucas is soon involved in the prison's televised "Death Matches" and later in "Death Races." The prisoners fight for freedom, while the viewers would prefer more bloody explosions. This is also the hook that will make action fans reach out for this production.

Death Race 2 is more than action, however, as the film immerses itself fully in the tone of misogyny. The word "bitch" is usually the default word when males interact with their female counterparts and few of the actresses rise above bimbo, or mere eye-candy. The poor treatment of women in the film would make one wonder how the predominantly male viewership would perceive women after watching the film. Yet, Death Race 2 is more than a how-not-to socialize with the opposite sex guide, this is a film that prides itself on huge explosions and pyrotechnical stunts.

This film generates excitement through huge fireballs and violent collisions. Stunt coordinators Dickey Beer and Adam Horton organize an efficient team to stunning visual effect. Characters are often engulfed in flame, or one step away from being mowed down by a six to ten ton Dodge Ram! But often, those who fight by the sword - die by the sword and this generalizing motto is even true for the main character. Even the lead succumbs to the violence of the bloodsports, where the pollice verso (mercy) is forgotten in favour of ever higher television ratings.

One last element that will hold sway on the DVD and Blu-ray crowds is the inclusion of a well known cast. Prison film regulars like Danny Trejo (Heat) and Ving Rhames (Undisputed) bring the gritty realism to a defunct prison system, while the "pretty boy" Luke Goss comfortably plays the hero. Other notables include Sean Bean (Black Death), Lauren Cohan and Tanit Phoenix. All actors find bit parts or larger roles, depending on their marquee value.

Outside of the cast, straight-to-video fans will find some good production values in this picture, which is abnormal. Also, this January 18th release, will be followed up with another film down the road. Currently, the next sequel is titled Death Race 3. So, satisfy your need for metal on metal with this latest Universal Studios Home Entertainment release and keep in mind that the sex roles, situations, and salacious violence are meant for the streets of fantasy, only.

Overall: 7 out of 10 (-1 for shortness, -1 for so many vile characters, -1 for Luke Goss not adding in a more human part to the character Carl Lucas).

*Extra features include deleted scenes, featurettes and a commentary from director Roel Reine.

Another review of this film is available at Fear Net:

Another Review of this Title at Fear Net by Scott Weinberg

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