Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Sean Bean, Lauren Cohan, Ving Rhames, Tanit Phoenix
Directed by Roel Reiné
Distributed by Universal Home Entertainment
If Death Race 2 proves anything, it’s that director Roel Reiné is not the one who shits on the sidewalk. And how did he do that, you ask? By delivering a prequel to Paul Anderson’s prequel to the Roger Corman classic Death Race 2000 that’s far more competent a prequel than the original prequel ever could be. Get what I’m saying? Confused? Let’s catch up.
With his “vision” of Death Race Anderson was trying to set up how the race began prior to it being unleashed on the streets where pedestrian kills would add up to big points. So he set his film in a prison full of murderers and assorted other bad guys who are asked to win a total of five deadly races to secure their freedom. This film focuses on how said races ever came to be in the first place.
We’re introduced to Carl “Luke” Lucas (Goss) as he’s about to pull off a robbery for crime lord Markus Kane (Bean). Of course the job doesn’t go as planned, bodies are crushed, explosions ensue, and Lucas ends up at a prison which holds televised fighting events that eventually evolve into the hyper-violent Death Race thanks to television superstar September Jones (Cohan) and her boss played by Ving Rhames.
Once Luke lands in the prison, Kane places a one million dollar bounty on his head, and before you know it, the entire prison is out to get him. Thankfully for Lucas he’s got his pit crew comprised of Tanit Phoenix, Frederick Koehler, and the always ready to get shirtless Danny Trejo to watch his back.
Races happen. Shots are fired. The action spins into slow motion sequences. The end credits roll. Death Race 2 does nothing in the way of raising the bar and is home to the usual pitfalls of lines being recited as if they were being read off of a card, ridiculous one-liners being uttered during the action sequences, etc. Yet, as a prequel it ties in to Anderson’s movie perfectly and actually manages to give a few nods to the Corman classic that the eagle-eyed fan will no doubt catch. It’s easily watchable, better than Anderson’s, never boring, and yet just as forgettable.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds spectacular, a definite improvement over its standard definition cousin, and the same special features are shared by both packages. Speaking of which …
Things kick off with an entertaining commentary with an eager Reiné, who we feel went above and beyond the call of duty with this film under the horrid constraints of the world set up by Anderson. There are three cookie-cutter featurettes covering everything from the film’s many stunts and vehicles to a look at exactly where this flick fits into the Death Race canon. From there we get several deleted scenes, a deleted shot montage, and a host of different ways to fiddle with the flick via Blu-ray listed below.
In the end Death Race 2 is a movie made with a far greater amount of reverence for the source material than Anderson’s quasi-remake. That’s something we completely appreciate. It’s not perfect, but maybe … just maybe … it can act as a good precursor to the Death Race film we all really want to see. There’s nowhere to go but up.
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
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