Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Death Race


A possible sign of the impending apocalypse would be remaking a Roger Corman film but without soul, purpose or fluidity. Enter Death Race, a rocket fueled collision of idiotic proportions. The original film Death Race 2000, starring David Carradine and a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone, helmed by Paul Bartel and featuring 70s style gratuitous nudity, was far from a masterpiece yet it was a hoot. The story revolves around a car race that involves killing pedestrians for points. The whole shebang is watched on television. For the remake the story now revolves around a pay-per-view event where the drivers try to kill each other with as much bombast as possible.
The radio station bitch from The Box, 97.1, kept offering the preview crowd a cap if they could name the release year of the original (1975) but she didn't even know herself. Actually she might be the perfect audience for this mindless grinding of metal.
It would be kind to refer to Death Race as a paycheck movie, what with Joan Allen acting all butch as the prison warden in charge of broadcasting Death Race. "We have 50 million paid viewers," her guard tells her. One of her juicy lines is "Okay cocksucker, you want to fuck with me? We'll see who shits on the sidewalk." I don't even know what that means. Star Jason Statham, as Frankenstein, was just breaking free of this kind of genre filmmaking with his recent The Bank Job, a tasty excursion into caper films, but seems to be backsliding. The director Paul W. S. Anderson specializes in this kind of clash warfare filmmaking (see Mortal Kombat) that epitomizes the fast cutting, no continuity style of action on display. What irony that he shares the same name as one of America's best directors (Paul Thomas Anderson of Magnolia, Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood fame). Natalie Martine looks svelte but in no way exudes the kind of sexiness that Simone Griffeth bared in the original. Ian McShane and Tyrese Gibson add dumb one-liners and have no motivation other than it's what the script says they must be doing.
Anderson bleaches the color so the screen looks even more pulpy than it feels. The other drivers are mere dots on the landscape to be squished. Why is the Russian baddie (Pachenko) named after a Japanese arcade game? With Death Race it's best not to ask.



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