MPAA #: 44430
Seat: Lower right
Weather: light rain
Food: Dr. Pepper, Peanut Butter M&Ms
Audience: about 20
Pre-show Ads: Mazda, Telus
Trailers: Knowing, Pride & Glory, Fastest & Furiousest, Role Models
It’s kind of amusing that the trailer for the new Fast and the Furious movie preceded tonight’s presentation of Death Race, since Tyrese is conspicuously absent from the first and all over the latter. This version, written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Alien Vs. Predator, Resident Evil) was in development hell for several years, with Tom Cruise rumoured to star. Thankfully, that did not happen.
Anyway, Death Race is the remake/sequel to the classic Roger Corman film from 1975 that starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone as Frankenstein and Machine Gun Joe, among others. Carradine sends off his original character via voice-over in the beginning of the new film, paving the way for Jason Statham and Tyrese.
Set in a not-very-distant future where the US economy has collapsed and people are entertained by prisoners killing each other on pay TV, the improbable warden Joan Allen has brooding good guy Statham framed for killing his wife and sent to Maximum Desaturation Penitentiary so that she can use his driving skills to replace the late Frankenstein. A toothsome young lady named Natalie Martinez rides shotgun as his navigator and ratings booster. Ian McShane rounds out the cast as Coach, the grizzled crew chief who somehow goes the entire film without saying “cocksucker” (Joan Allen does, strangely enough, giving us the one laugh in the film).
This film is all right, but like many Corman remakes, not as fun as the original. The original had a strong satirical angle that is generally lost here, and the race itself is relatively dull, consisting of Wipeout-like laps around the prison yard instead of a cross-country rally. There is an amusing new mechanism for the drivers to use “power-ups” to enable their weapons and shields, but these items are disabled by the meddling Allen half the time. The new car designs are kind of cool, especially the dreadnought, but they are also not very distinctive compared to any number of post-apocalyptic movies, including this year’s Doomsday and Babylon A.D.
More importantly, the new Death Race is completely humourless, offering a half-hearted framing device about redemption for characters that we don’t like very much anyway. If you want to see a racing film that is actually exciting, colourful and fun, check out the DVD release of Speed Racer this week.
Crowd reaction at end of movie: indifferent
Credit cookie?: an audio-only repeat of Joan Allen saying her “cocksucker” line. Really.
For further consideration: haven’t villains learned by now that Jason Statham can scrape a bomb off the bottom of a car?
Opening next week: Lakeview Terrace, My Best Friend’s Girl, Blindness, The Duchess, Appaloosa
Please god, anything but: Lakeview Terrace