Sep 24 2008
Thanks again to Movies.ie, we went to a preview of Death Race last night in Dundrum. This action movie with Jason Statham falls into the guilty pleasures category of my film tastes. Director, Paul W.S. Anderson, has also helmed the brilliant Event Horizon, along with the action packed Resident Evil and Alien vs Predator. I went into this movie with the full intention of switching my brain into autopilot and just enjoying the ride.
In the eighties, we had Schwarzenegger, Stalone, Van Damme, Seagal, John McClane, even Lethal Weapon brought out a great action star in Mel Gibson. Nowadays however, short of the occasional Bourne movie, the brief return of Bruce Willis in Die Hard 4 and the plethora of comic book movies, the action movie genre has become a bit watered down. Wonderful as the Dark Knight was, a man in tights just doesn’t inspire the same raw, instinctive growl deep down in the male psyche than seeing some reluctant cop in a vest crawl across broken glass while being shot at by German terrorists. Even Bond is a bit watery these days. So, I ask, is the action hero dead and gone, with Charles Bronson in his grave?
Jason Statham says no. To action fans Statham is already a star. Lock Stock, Snatch, The Transporter, Mean Machine and last years plotless but high octane adrenaline fest Crank secured him a cult following. He is a no-apologies, blunt, brutal action man, who cares little for plot or emotional drama and prefers to pump muscles and drive cars.
There is a loose plot to Death Race, which is a remake of the 1975 movie Death Race 2000. Essentially, Jensen Ames (Statham) is framed for the murder of his wife and is sentenced to prison. In a few years time, when the world economy is gone to shit and crime is an epidemic; the prisons have become the new Big Brother, where the inmates fight to the death to gain their freedom. The most popular ‘sport’ is the Death Race, where the drivers must bash, smash and crash their way across the finish line. If they kill a few opponents along the way, all the better. But this plot matters not. It’s an excuse to fill the screen with gratuitous violence, hot women and fast cars. The trick that this movie pulls, however, is that it makes no apologies for it. The Coach (played by a brilliant Ian McShane) even explains away the big breasted beauties as being good for ratings.
The movie is further improved by some solid supporting roles. McShane is flawless and even Tyrese Gibson presents a formidable foe for Ames. Joan Allen, in the role of prison warden Hennessy, is a stroke of genius though. I don’t know why this Oscar Nominated actress agreed to do this movie, but I’m glad she did. Her script shows that the film makers had their tongues firmly in cheek when making Death Race. With gusto and sheer joy she delivers the best (and worst) line of the movie –
Okay cocksucker. Fuck with me, and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk.
It’s camp, over the top, fueled with energy from the explosive start right to the, well, explosive finish. Maybe it’s a bad movie but I loved it. A bad comedy can be saved by making the audiences laugh enough. A bad horror movie can be saved by scaring the bejaysus out of people. So, perhaps a bad action movie can be saved by being so fuel injected, so hyper, so insanely visual that it has the audiences pumping with adrenaline and joy. A grown man, sitting behind us in the cinema, actually screamed at one point. Surely that’s reason enough to go see this movie.