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A Workmanlike Sequel to Jason Statham's superior Death Race
on 15 September 2014
This a a sequel to Jason Statham's highly enjoyable movie Death Race. Luke Goss plays a getaway driver, named Luke, who works with a team of armed bank robbers. During a botched bank heist, Luke inadvertently shoots a policeman. The gang make an escape attempt in a seriously sexy banana yellow Ford Shelby Mustang. The extended car chase is well shot and exciting.
Luke is captured, convicted, and sent to an off-shore penitentiary named Terminal Island. The unscrupulous Weyland Corporation own the prison, and force the inmates to take part in a a televised game called Death Match, where they engage in armed and unarmed combat to the death, with weapons such as flame throwers.
Luke gets drawn into the fights against his wishes and he excels. The success of Death Match encourages the Weyland Corporation to up the ante, and to make Death Race. Eighteen prisoners take part in a nine car race to the death, the object of which is to kill the other drivers.
The cars look like they've been stolen from the set of a Mad Max movie. If you win five races, you get released. Luke Goss plays the lead much better than I thought he would, but he's no Jason Statham or Matt Damon. I don't know if Jason Statham had an option to star in this film, but if he did, I can understand why he turned it down - it's simply not in the same league as Transporter, Crank or Homefront.
The Death Race itself is stylish and well filmed, with some very impressive stunt work. The trouble is, the villains are one dimensional cartoon cut outs, which means that, as and when Luke fends them off, you really don't really care.
You need to really hate a bad guy, to enjoy it when he gets his just deserts, and here, the bad guys are just a bit too cliche and boring. Luke at least has a very erotic sex scene with an incredibly gorgeous female inmate, which renews viewer interest about one hour into the movie. The major drawback with this film, is the absence of a convincing action star in the lead role, somebody like a Jason Statham or Matt Damon, who could probably have carried the movie to a better level. Some well known actors like Ving Rhames, Sean Bean and Danny Trejo have cameo roles, but they are largely peripheral to the movie.
If truth be told, I have a soft spot for dumb action movies like this. They take me back to my teenage years in the early 1980's, the days of Betamax and VHS video recorders, when you'd nip down to the nearest video rental store and hire a "straight to video" film like this one, just because it was a sort of rite of passage for a 14 year old boy to watch 18 certificate movies, like Stallone's Death Race 2000.
Death Race 2 is simply that, a "straight to video" sort of movie. It's watchable and fun, but manifestly dumb, and without any intrinsic value. It relies on the Mad Max style vehicles, gung-ho violence, and voluptuous babes, to stop the viewer from reaching for the off switch.
If you like this genre of film, watch Death Race 2000 starring Sylvester Stallone, then go on to Statham's Death Race, and then finish off with this sequel. If you can pick up this movie for under a fiver, it's worth a punt.