Running Time: 105 mins
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong violence and language)
Bing, bang, bam, boom, bash... And that's just the pre-credits' prologue! Depending on where you see Death Race (that is presuming you want to see it), then you will experience cinematic assault and battery. It is an assault on the eyes with its wide screen format and pounding pacing and editing. And it's loud. Very loud.
Which makes one wonder who is the target audience. Those of us who felt that the 1975 Death Race 2000 on which this film was based (with David Carradine and a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone) was a guilty pleasure may just feel guilty without the pleasure. But, in the words of Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon films, we are probably to old for this kind of... Those who are not into cars and violent death races, which means a large percentage of the population, will not want to see it. Which leaves us with those younger macho boys at heart with their testosterone-fuelled sensibilities. It will be adrenalin-pumping. On the other hand, such high octane crash-bam-wallop shenanigans are just numbing.
It is 2012 and we are told that the American economy has collapsed (which makes the film more current than it might have imagined). Unemployment is rife. Our hero, Jason Statham, in a variation of his Transporter driver roles, is let go with not enough money to support his wife and daughter. When his wife is murdered and he is framed, he finds himself in a prison where the warden (Joan Allen of all people) runs drivers and cars in a death race series which the avid public can subscribe to watch on television and on line. Tyrese Gibson is around as a rival driver. Ian McShane is the coach and mechanic.
While the races are loud and fast-paced, with no holds barred brutality, they do not seem to be all that interesting.
Ultimately, this is a battle of wits and the underdogs defying the bosses. The producers must have thought they were on to something when they have Joan Allen mouthe some words that she normally doesn't say in films. They might not, as in the words of My Fair Lady, make a sailor blush, but the sailor might well be shocked to hear Joan Allen saying them. At the end of the final credits, she says them again!
The whole thing is gruelling - which is what director Paul W.S.Anderson (who made Resident Evil and Alien Versus Predator) exactly wants.
Universal Out October 30
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.