Sunday, 16 January 2011



I was never much of a fan of Death Race 2000, Roger Corman's exploitation classic that paired David Carradine with Sylvester Stallone and had loads of car stunts, crashes and violence in it - at least I wasn't a big enough fan to watch it again in advance of this shiny 21st century retooling in which massive lead-weighted cars smash into each other and blow up. In fact I originally saw Paul WS Anderson's big-scale remake as the closing film at FrightFest a few years ago: at the time I was fairly miserable and the relentless brutality and thudding stupidity cheered me up no end. But I've watched it again this afternoon (to provide some context to Death Race 2 - review to follow) and, even in a better frame of mind, I still enjoyed the hell out of it.

The basic idea is that in the future, the most popular broadcast sport is the Death Race, in which convicted criminals race customised supercars around the prison grounds and basically attempt to kill each other. If they win five races they go free, regardless of their crimes. The current champion, needing one more win, is the masked Frankenstein - but unfortunately he's dead, so in order to keep up the ratings (and the pay-per-view income) newly convicted Jason Statham is persuaded to play the role for his freedom. Except - of course! - he's innocent, the real killer is also in the prison, and the organisers really aren't going to allow him to leave that easily....

Until last April there was a satellite channel in the UK called Men And Motors and that's exactly what this movie is - huge rippling alpha males, frequently bare-chested or brawling, and great chunks of deadly automotive hardware loaded with guns, grenades and napalm. The prison is run by a power-dressed queen bitch (Joan Allen), and all the drivers are accompanied by female navigators (from the women's prison next door) and they all look like FHM covershoot models with their tight jeans and bare midriffs. If you can actually smell the diesel, you can practically taste the testosterone. It's what Top Gear would look like if it wasn't properly controlled. With overlaid graphics from the broadcast feed making it look like a video game, it's monumentally senseless, crude and violent, and thoroughly enjoyable. It really cheered me up when I was down and it's still a massive hunk of entirely disreputable entertainment; I shouldn't have enjoyed it but I did.


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