Aimed entirely at a demographic of teenaged boys, Death Race is a remake of the cult film Death Race 2000 from 1975 which the director Paul WS Anderson has been planning for nearly ten years. It casts Jason Statham (Transporter, Ghosts of Mars) in an entirely familiar role as a wronged hard-man at the wheel of a souped-up automobile.
Framed for his wife’s murder and sent to a kind of dystopian future-prison, his only way out is to win a deadly car race which has proved big business for the prison governor (played in high heels by Joan Allen).
It’s a shame about Paul WS Anderson and it’s a shame about Joan Allen. Joan Allen has been Oscar-nominated in her time and performed a good turn in The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy; here as the evil prison warder she plays a parody of that role, a cartoon villain capable of training a swivelled shotgun on uppity prisoners as she sits behind her prison desk as the very model of puritanical conformity.
Paul WS Anderson made one of the best sci-fi films of recent years, Event Horizon, but it failed at the box-office and this director has now been reduced to making a constant stream of movies that look like video games, the very worst of which was his terrible Aliens Vs Predator. Death Race is a video game; cars can pick up weapons activations at certain points and the race itself is held on three successive levels.
It’s all too much. When you think it can’t get any worse, try throwing in some jaw-droppingly stupid introductions of a female component (female prisoners, all pretty, all large-busted) to act as navigators for the drivers, who surely would be too distracted by all this oestrogen-rich bodaciousness to fire their guns and drive their big, big cars.
Frankly, Jason Statham is also beginning to look to old for this. When you see him training on a bar his muscles have begun to turn a bit pinched and reptilian. It’s generally not a pleasant sight. His trademark surliness is beginning to look a bit indecorous for a man approaching his early middle-aged, where his bald pate makes him look old rather than voluntarily shaven.
He really needs to make himself a cup of cocoa and calm down a bit.
* One star out of Five
Death Race is already released in the US; UK release date is Sept 26th