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Death Race
Jason Statham walks away from what looks like either contemporary art or really bad CGI

Total Drag (Race)

Even the occasional pit stops are the pits

August 27, 2008, 12:00 am

It’s obvious that the new guns/explosions/cars/cleavage film Death Race is aimed at the 18- to 34-year-old male demographic. Really obvious.

But there is another number range that is more important: 0-60. No, not the star Mustang’s acceleration rate. Rather, IQ. For Death Race is a movie aimed squarely at—beyond the stated gender and age constraints—idiots. By idiots, the Screener refers specifically to adults who find WWF wrestling “compelling.”

A second WWF-loving demographic that the producers of Death Race may have had in mind is—despite the movie’s R rating— kids.

The theater, on opening night, was a veritable elementary school, run amok with little Mikeys and Tommys, each saving his allowance for a My First Switchblade. But, since entrance—for those about to start their first semester of kindergarten—requires the assistance of a dullard dad or imbecilic uncle, we can consider these adults and children one and the same.

Death Race is a rehash of the 1975 carsploitation flick Death Race 2000 that predicted a new millennium in which David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone mow down old people for points. Though Death Race 2000 didn’t accurately forecast a kill-or-be-killed world of armored, flame-throwing cars and pedestrian launching, it did usher in a new national pastime of calling out points for running over innocents (“Old lady in wheelchair with kitten: 37 points!”).

This new version eschews—lamely—the running over of elderly innocents. Instead it combines the insanely overused post-apocalyptic aesthetics of Mad Max with the cheesy prison tenderness of The Shawshank Redemption; the how-the hell-did-they-get-this-in-here bootyliciousness of a JLo video; the power-upping, mind-numbing delirium of Super Mario Kart; the overwrought pyrotechnics of the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony; and the automotive wish-fulfillment pleasures of Pimp My Ride, albeit with the rotating, neon fish-tanks-with waterproof-TVs-for-the-fish replaced by Russian, heat-seeking missiles.

It’s a shaky, blurry, messy, stupid bore that goes like this: Single facial expression-sporting (toughly-nonplused), Bruce Willis-scalped, racer/ninja Jason Statham stars as Jensen, a dude who is set up for the murder of his wife and, once in prison, is drawn into death racing by über-ice-queen warden Hennessey (Joan Allen). Jensen is assisted by “Coach,” played by Ian McShane—an actor who looks as if the face of Al Pacino were stitched onto Ron Jeremy— and, together with his arch nemesis Machine Gun Joe (male model Tyrese Gibson, balancing toughness with perfect cheekbone angles), he drives around and a bunch of shit blows up. The end.

Death Race
Written and directed by Paul WS Anderson
With Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane, Tyrese Gibson and Natalie Martinez
Dreamcatcher, Regal Stadium 14
89 min.


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