Directed By: Paul W. S. Anderson
Starring: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Tyrese Gibson, Ian McShane, Natalie Martinez, Jason Clarke
Rated: Rated R for strong violence and language
Runtime: 89 minutes
Studio: Cruise/Wagner Productions
If mindless brutality, hot male prisoners, sizzling supermodel female inmates and thunderous, screeching, hunks of metal vehicles equipped to kill, peak your interest, then Death Race was conjured up just for you. The latest creation of writer and director Paul W. S. Anderson of Resident Evil infamy. This Hollywood hot shot knows what sells: sex, blood and action, and more blood.
Prisoners generally don’t seem to have busy agendas so Hennessey (Allen) the warden of this notorious prison decided six years prior to bank on her prisoners. She runs races featuring the prisoners and sells the races on the internet. Viewers pay outrageous sums of money to watch various stages of the race, each including more brutal and vicious types of death and destruction. When her star racer is killed, a free man and former race car driver is framed for the death of his wife so that he can be recruited as a driver. The prize for the prisoner who wins the race is freedom.
Prisoner Jensen Ames (Statham; The Bank Job) races for his life, as contestants take advantage of the lack of rules. As the drivers fight one another, and plot various types of mayhem and destruction, Warden Hennessey back account soars.
It is hard to say this, but Death Race was really entertaining, and if I wanted to wax philosophical, it reeks of political overtones. I recently heard someone say that Americans don’t seem to understand that “freedom isn’t free.” Well you can apply that to the war of course or you can apply it to the cost or worth of the lives of our prisoners.
Another interesting theme is abuse of power which rampant in our society. I have no idea how they lured Joan Allen to play such a cheesy role, but Allen does a deadly, greedy warden, it with pizzazz and it makes you want to watch this tawdry little number all the more. Full of stereo types, the ones that get me are this, why are the women always old and treacherous, or beautiful and backstabbing. And why oh why are the fine black men frequently mean and gay in the movies? Whose reality is this? Ridiculous character aside, Tyrese Gibson as Machine Gun Joe, will blow bullet holes in your movie seat from the big screen.
Death Race is made for action junkies, because it is exciting, and some sort of battle is always happening. The brutal violence in Death Race is the type where viewers collectively react with “ooohhs and awwws and ouches.” Deep down inside, is the curiosity about humankind. Will we ever tire of such violence? No matter the answer, if you want your pulse to race without personal exertion (beyond bringing the soda to your mouth with one hand, and the popcorn to your mouth with the other) Death Race is the “workout” you desire.