Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Max Ryan
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson
Distributed by Universal Home Video
“We’ll see who shits on the sidewalk!”
That’s the line gleefully spoken by Joan Allen to be delivered during the moment in the film. It was written by Paul W(riting) S(ucks) Anderson, and both have said publicly that it was one of the best lines of their careers. Me? I don’t even understand it. So is it good to shit on the sidewalk? Is it a threat? Who knows? When it comes to Anderson, I’m just about ready to stop trying to figure things out.
“We’ll see who shits on Paul Bartel’s 1975 film!”
Death Race is more or less a remake prequel to Death Race 2000. In it we see how the sport came to fruition along with the genesis of the event’s most popular racer, Frankenstein (Statham). In this retooling convicts of a prison are forced by their Warden (Allen) to compete in a driving competition that ends when the other contestants die. All the ghoulish dark humor that 2000 was rife with has been replaced by a bad script, chicks who only walk in slow-motion, homo-eroticism, and action filmed so poorly you can barely see what’s going on.
“We’ll see who shits on the close-up shakey-cam!”
Therein lies the movie’s biggest sin. Anderson shoots so tight and erratically it’s easy to not only lose your place during the races but to contract motion sickness as well. Picture sitting in a black box with a two-foot long by one-foot high hole cut in it. Now imagine if you will that two buses are colliding with each other right in front of said hole. All you’ll see is a close-up mishmash of sparks and metal, and all you’ll hear is incessant crunching. That’s what parts of this film were like. However, if you indulged in my aforementioned experiment, you would have just sat through a far better version of this flick because at least then you wouldn’t have to deal with the embarrassing script.
“We’ll see who shits on the supplements!”
The DVD and Blu-ray basically share the same extras with the Blu-ray sporting a couple of exclusive goodies that we’ll get into later. On both packages you’ll find the following: an audio commentary with director Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt in which the pair try to justify their reasoning for making this mess by patting each other on the back, the banal twenty-minute Start Your Engines: Making a Death Race featurette, and the eight-minute Behind the Wheel: Dissecting the Stunts featurette, which is exactly what you think it is. Joy.
“We’ll see who shits on the hi-def exclusives!”
Here’s where things get a bit more interesting. Blu-ray actually does change the way that you watch movies as it lets you play around with them. The Create Your Own Race option is an example of this. It is a pretty nifty feature that gives you seven different angles of car carnage from the film’s second stage of the Death Race and then lets you splice them together however you want and share them online. Sound awesome? You betcha! There’s just one drawback — As your sequence plays out, there’s a pause or stutter between scene-switching, and this makes for a very jittery experience. This could have been great; instead it’s just kind of half baked.
Strangely enough, where you’ll find the lion’s share of the behind-the-scenes stuff is integrated into the disc’s U-Control feature. This allows you to access a massive amount of making-of stuff about the movie on the fly via a picture-in-picture window. I was shocked at how much there was. The featurettes didn’t hardly cover any of the things you will find with the U-Control option set to “On”.
Rounding things out on the Blu-ray is the ability to chat with other viewers during the movie via BD Live, and there’s even a way to record your own commentary and share that with other users, too. This feature was not active yet when I tried so the jury remains out on how well it works.
“We’ll see who shits on the summation of this package!”
In the end Death Race is a goofy little movie. If I were thirteen years old with the attention span of a tick, this would probably be my idea of a cool exploitation flick, and that’s the problem with all of Anderson’s films — he usually has the best of intentions while making them but continuously fails when it comes to making them turn out to be something other than silly fan-boy nonsense. Yep, once again he has shown us who shits on the genre.
2 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5 each
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