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:
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
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