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Death Race 3: Inferno (Blu-ray / DVD)

Cover art:

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Death Race 3 on Blu-ray and DVDStarring Luke Goss, Danny Trejo, Dougray Scott, Tanit Phoenix, Fred Koehler, Ving Rhames, Robin Shou

Directed by Roel Reiné

Distributed by Universal Home Entertainment


Danny Trejo spouts off a line early into Death Race 3: Inferno that pretty much sums it all up: “Fuck logic!”

If you’re at all interested in watching yet another unlikely sequel/prequel to Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race, then you’re not at all interested in logic, and you’re not going to offended by its mindlessness so long as you get to see plenty of carnage of both the vehicular and human kind. All this is about, all it strives to deliver, all it exists for is dudes and babes driving Mad Max-ian vehicles through a desert, smashing, crashing, and blowing each other to kingdom come while the evil Death Race owner has hate sex with a sexy television executive when not yelling maniacally at whoever is pissing him off at the moment. That’s all it promises, and that’s all it delivers. This movie is an hour and forty-plus minutes, and I can assure you that is not because it is heavy on plot and character development.

Having not been a fan of Death Race, I did not bother with the previous Death Race sequel/prequel. Uncle Creepy insisted I watch and review this third one. Skipping part two mattered little since this one opens with a recap, and between what I saw in that recap and what I would go on to see in this one, I reckon the only thing I missed in the previous film was a minor variation of the exact same premise of every Death Race: The inmate behind the Frankenstein mask is one victory away from gaining his freedom, but the person in charge goes to go to great lengths to ensure that doesn’t happen for reasons that almost always boil down to not wanting to lose the top star of the most financially lucrative sport of the future.

You don’t really need to have seen the previous Death Race films or even the original 1970’s Death Race 2000 that spawned them. Hell, you don’t even have to have ever seen any movie in your life. If you’ve ever played a combat racing video game like Twisted Metal or ever as a kid taken a bunch of Hot Wheels cars and staged your own demolition derby, then you’re already ahead of the curve when it comes to this film. Every facet of this sequel is designed liked a video game brought to life, right down to the voiceover guy introducing the various nicknamed racers whose voice you’ve no doubt heard in many video games of this very nature doing this exact same shtick. The mentality with which the movie plays out isn’t that much different than a kid in a sandbox with Tonka trucks and G.I. Joe figures making explosion sounds.

Though, funnily enough, Inferno dares culminate with a Saw ending. You know how every Saw flick wrapped up with a montage explaining how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together? This mindless movie that could best be summed up with the words “vroom” and “boom” suddenly wants to impress the audience with how intricately plotted its double-crosses, red herrings, and bait and switches were, to such an extent that this reveal laughably runs on for several minutes.

The flimsy plot is as previously described. Performances can best be described as varying degrees of under or overacting. Character development rarely goes beyond establishing their race, ethnicity, or nickname. One guy is nicknamed “Psycho,” and sure enough he’s a psycho. Another driver is hyped as the first-ever female Death Racer, and yes, she is in fact a female.

The young woman (Tanit Phoenix) serving as Frankenstein’s navigator doesn’t know that the guy behind the mask (Luke Goss = Jason Statham minus an ounce of charisma) is her lover who faked his death in the previous pre/sequel upon donning the persona. When his identity is revealed to her early on, she is so pissed she doesn’t want anything to do with him outside of being required to serve as his co-pilot. That is, until the new owner of Death Race (Dougray Scott, perpetually sneering and yelling) gifts him with a whore. Suddenly she’s in tears at the thought of him having sex with another woman. Then he apologizes and she forgives him. This is what constitutes a character arc in a Death Race sequel.

Ving Rhames gets his name above the title and his face on the artwork despite only making what amounts to a brief cameo at the beginning and end. The man is all smiles, no doubt because he knows how easy this paycheck gig is.

Roel Reiné is making a name for himself as the king of direct-to-video action sequels. He also helmed Death Race 2, The Marine 2, The Scorpion King 3, and the upcoming 12 Rounds: Reloaded. I much prefer his more practical Craig R. Baxley approach to action directing than Paul W.S. Anderson’s “Fuck with me and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk” poseur cool ADD stylizations. I must confess to having enjoyed this film more than Anderson’s.

Alas, the mark of Anderson still stains this franchise with illogical holdovers from his film.

Once again, we’re told that for an extra fee viewers can purchase access to exclusive cockpit cameras inside the vehicles. Part of Frankenstein’s appeal is the mystery of who is behind the mask, and we are constantly reminded that Frankenstein can be replaced by anyone. Goss, as was also the case with Statham, never drives with the Frankenstein mask on so anyone paying extra for his dash-cam would see his face. They’d probably also hear him saying things like, “Here’s my secret plan to kill the guy in charge of the Death Race.” Perhaps one day they’ll make a Death Race sequel where the bad guy is smart enough to listen in on the mic in the vehicle being driven by the guy he’s plotting against.

The most senseless aspect of all these Death Race flicks is the addition of hot women in skimpy outfits supposedly serving as navigators for the drivers. They rarely served any helpful purpose in the original and even less so this go-around. These women mainly just yell insults at the drivers they’re paired with or, in the case of Frankenstein’s navigatress, just sits there twiddling her thumbs while Danny Trejo radios him from the sidelines with every last bit of navigational detail he needs.

Not that this aspect really matters anyway seeing as how yet again the audience is never really given any indication about the layout of the course or how long the length of each leg of the three-day race is.

Also, could somebody get a wet vac over to Frankenstein’s holding cell? When you see the movie, you’ll understand what I’m alluding to.

Inferno’s highlight doesn’t even involve death racing. Before the race begins, the film takes a detour into Gorgeous Ladies of Thunderdome territory. A special pre-race event is staged in which 20 scantily clad babes are required to brutally murder each other with their bare hands, all manner of bladed weapons, and even flamethrowers(!) until 10 remain, earning the honor of serving as navigators. For a few minutes the film transforms into the Lingerie Bowl version of The Hunger Games. If Michael Bay were to ever remake Battle Royale, it would be exactly like this incredible sequence of cheesecake carnage.

Movies like Death Race 3: Inferno are like a piece of chewing gum – the flavor is fleeting, you spit it out when you’re done without hesitation, but it gave you the minor fix you were after. If you read this review and cannot understand how I can still justify giving it three stars, I just have two words for you:

“Fuck logic!”

Special Features

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Deleted Shots Montage
  • The Making of Death Race 3: Inferno
  • Feature Commentary with Director Roel Reiné
  • Alternate Opening
  • Racing for Death featurette
  • Art Imitating Life: Goldberg featurette

    Film:

    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 out of 5

    Discuss Death Race 3 in our comments section below!

  • Foywonder

    • Stanlok

      This and Death Race 2 are on Netflix so I watched them both and I am sorry but I couldn’t “Fuck Logic”. There are so many times when they would establish a rule and then 10 minutes later they would break their own rule. For example it is made clear that the races can not use the weapons on the car against the anyone except the other racers, then at the end of Death Race 3 Frankenstein starts blowing up the guard towers and then begins to drive into the tunnel where the “bad guy” happens to be and runs him over.
      By the way has anyone else noticed that Frankenstein (Luke) never wins a race on camera? The winner of the first Death Race is 14K, then Frankenstein wins four races in row between movies and then loses the race in Death Race 3 to wait for it, 14K! For the next set of movies I hope the film makers will cover 14K and his story.

    • elric300

      I haven’t seen the second yet. But now I think I’ll double them up. This sounds ludicrous, but kinda fun.

    • MonsterMash

      I really dug it. Sure it’s not smart, but it’s a lot better than you give it credit for. For example- you mention the female navigators doing nothing for the drivers save shouting insults at them. Think about this. Both occupants of the vehicle are hardened criminals who don’t get along. It’s hard to see these kind of death row escapees(as mentioned in the Paul Anderson film- which I will not defend.) sitting down and trying to be friendly with each other and putting aside their differences. They are going to do whatever they feel like. And you did not mention how well-made the action scenes are. You can tell whats going on. No shaky-cam in the crash scenes. There’s plenty of bang for your buck. This movie does not slow down. It’s as close as you’re going to get to being half as fun as the original nowadays. However, Trejo and Rhames are slapped on purely for name value. Goss may not be the best actor in the world, but he did fine given the script. I don’t know what you expected from this, but I had a damn fun time with it.

      • Foywonder

        Considering their lives are on the line if they don’t work together I’d think that would be a pretty good reason to not just have one half of the team simply sit next to them the whole time shouting insults at the other. The women are only there for eye candy, which makes sense in the context of the movie but in the context of the sporting event within the movie.

        Maybe I needed to make myself clearer but when I compare a director to Craig R. Baxley as opposed to Paul W.S. Anderson I’m praising them for doing exactly what you said. No shaky cam. No ADD editing. The action is very well choreographed. I just had no vested interest in the outcome of any of it because I honestly did not give a damn about anyone involved.

        • MonsterMash

          Understood. To each their own. I just enjoyed the film a lot more than you did I suppose. DR2 wasn’t too bad either, better than the first, but this one is the best so far.

    • nonserviam03

      I’m just kind of bummed that Frankenstein isn’t hideously scarred.

    • will graham

      the thing with Roel Reine (as well as Issac Florentine and John Hyams) is that while he doesn’t make good movies, he certainly knows how to direct action scenes better than most big screen directors!