Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson, Natalie Martinez, Max Ryan, Jason Clarke, Frederick Koehler, Jacob Vargas, Justin Mader, Robert LaSardo, Robin Shou
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language
Running Time: 90
Date: 08/21/2008

Death Race (2008)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Track Marks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, AVP: Alien vs. Predator) re-does Death Race 2000 (1975), stripping it of all its black comedy and turning the cross-country race into a prison race, around a single track. Jensen Ames (Jason Statham) is framed for the murder of his wife and forced into racing, taking over the identity of the secretly deceased champion "Frankenstein." For some reason, hot girls -- wearing tank tops rather than racing gear -- are used as the drivers' assistants. With Joan Allen enjoying her role as the hard-as-nails warden, the movie is almost a lot of fun, were it not for the fact that Anderson lacks a knack for clarity and lightness; he shakes the camera too much and cuts so fast that the race becomes a blur. We never get a feel for the track or the racers. The cars are all the same color and some of the racers look alike, and it's difficult to tell them apart. Regardless, much of the film steers accidentally into the enjoyably laughable. Tyrese Gibson takes over Sylvester Stallone's role, "Machine Gun Joe." Roger Corman gets a producer credit.

DVD Details: Universal's DVD comes with an "unrated" version (6 minutes longer) as well as the theatrical version. A director's commentary track is available on the unrated version only. Otherwise, there are some featurettes and various subtitle and language options.

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