Remaking genius cult B-movie Death Race 2000 was either going to end up being a very bad idea or a very good idea. The film (think Wacky Races with gore, Sylvester Stallone and boobs) said pretty much all it had to say it seemed. But here we are with a Jason Statham B-side actioner that's...
Neither bad or good, really.
More the latter than the former, though.
The film opens with a cool car chase involving masked driver Frankenstein (played by David Carradine in the original film and rocking a cameo here), a really good start: the cars look great, the action's fine... That is, until the character is killed off! Yeah, then it becomes a prison movie for some reason with Jason Statham getting locked up after being wrongfully accused of killing his own wife. It's like Steven Seagal came in and rewrote the movie! It's not bad but it's not quite what you expect walking in, frankly.
Thankfully, though, things finally get down to business and the movie gets back in focus as a bunch of prisoners, including Statham, are made to race to the death for the sake of ratings. Along the way, of course, are countless traps etc. Here's the weird thing: Death Race 2000 was actually WAY crueller than this. For one thing it was gorier but also the game of the race was to run over as many pedestrians as possible and different people were worth a different amount of points. And guess what? That's what made the original flick so awesome! It was delightfully insane and we loved it. This Death Race is pretty tame in comparison, it's basically Gamer with cars. It's also not that funny at all save for a couple of ridiculous deaths and this line:
"Ok ****sucker, f*** with me and we'll see who shits on the sidewalk!"
So Statham has to pretend to be Frankenstein because... they killed the character I guess, and everyone buys it even though Statham never wears the mask he's supposed to wear and speaks in an English accent. Oh and I hope you like slow-mo because every time a woman exits a car or walks: it's happenin', Michael Bay-style. But then again this is a Paul W. S. Anderson movie so there's bound to be some dodgy music video-style directing in there. All that said, though, Death Race gets a pass thanks to it being pretty darn entertaining once it gets moving. The car chases are well done and look really cool, which, in a movie like this, is half the battle won right there. Statham makes a convincing action lead, as ever, and gets to brood around in what is essentially Gone In 60 Seconds meets Gamer meets Crank. The supporting cast includes Ian McShane, who sadly is left spouting trailer one-liners, and Joan Allen (see line above).
Overall, Death Race is a decent, brainless B-movie with enough nonsense and badass car action to keep you entertained. I just wish that David Carradine had stuck around longer than 2 minutes and Sly had starred in this, reprising their own roles instead of force-merging a generic Jason Statham straight-to-DVD movie with Roger Corman's cult classic.
Oh well, maybe the sequels got it right?
lol I'm kidding.
*wipes tear from eye*