'Death Race' a wild ride
Granted, "Death Race" is as boneheaded a movie as they come. The acting is stiff as as cigar store Indian, the plot is as thin as Jason Statham's hairline, and it has virtually nothing to do with the movie it is supposed to be a remake of.
With all this said, who can resist a good demolition derby smash-em-up hot rod flick?
"Death Race 2000" was a 1975 super-campy sci-fi movie about a futuristic cross-country road race in which the participants (among them David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone) received extra credit for splattering down innocent pedestrians.
Thirty-three years later, the same dude produces "Death Race," but this version is a teeth-gritting, humorless tale that is more like a violent car wreck video game than a film.
Set in 2012 inside a high-security prison, Statham stars as a former driver framed for the murder of his wife so that he can be forced to race in a reality show, portraying a popular masked driver "Frankenstein" who actually died of injuries in an earlier race. They can't let him win, because they'd have to let him go free. Or something like that.
The cars spew spikes, spike, oil, napalm, machine-gun bullets, rockets and whatever other dirty tricks they can think of. Killing the competition is considered primo strategy.
The movie is half "Mad Max," part Speed Racer, and a little Grand Theft Auto, "Rollerball" and NASCAR Bristol Speedway thrown in for good measure. You get the picture.
It's so violent that it managed to get an R rating without even a hint of sex.
Stantham is so bloody awful that his few grunting Brit-tinged threats of dialog are mainly good for a derisive imitation. The closest thing to acting comes from the winsome warden, played by giraffe-necked Joan Allen, who offers a pale, strangely striking appeal and a good evil ice queen vibe; and Ian McShane, as a wise old mechanic who utters the spellbinder line - "I love this game" at an oppotune moment.
While it is brutal and horrendously predictable, the movie is still shot so well that it is nearly hypnotic, and the endless crashes are done with superb, believable special effects.
Vehicles bristling with cool weapons, preposterously high speeds, jailhouse brawling, hottie female co-pilots, exploding everything and cartoonishly high energy action - what more could a hormonal teen boy, or anyone who used to be one, want to sneak in to see? So, you say your husband went for groceries and he's been gone two hours? Check for popcorn on his breath.
* "Death Race," now showing at the Vista III in Storm Lake. Rated R for gratuitous violence and plenty of bad language, including Allan's classy warden who eventually curses up a blue streak. Run time, 1 hour 29 minutes. Our rating: 2 stars out of 5, but without the special effects it ould be a zero.